November 18th marked International Day of Islamic art, and while not a commonly celebrated day, it does offer an opportunity to reflect on the rich tradition of Islamic art in the West. Canada proudly hosts an abundance of Islamic art and tradition, being home to the Aga Khan Museum, the largest Islamic art museum in North America and boasting a rich collection across many museums and galleries. However, Islamic art is not just confined to these spaces alone. Its influences can be felt in contemporary art and architecture - sometimes where we least expect them. Toronto Pearson Airport is certainly not the first place that comes to mind when it comes to Islamic art. Yet within its labyrinthine terminals exists an evocative art piece, side by side the bustling crowds: “The Holding Pattern” is a set of ornately designed airport chairs at Terminal 1 constructed by Tazeen Qayyum. An accomplished miniature painter, Tazeen Qayyum’s artwork reflects her own experiences moving between Pakistan and Canada. The title refers to the circumambulation of planes when they are unable to land,which she connected to the political climate regarding the struggles of immigration that persist to this day. The pattern itself is an intricately woven biomorphic pattern atop a vibrant red backdrop. The backdrop bears a repeating motif. What seems to be an assortment of florals at a cursory glance however, are actually figures of cockroaches. A surprising choice to be sure, but certainly an inspired one. Taking the traditional techniques of Islamic art, Qayyum weaves them with unique imagery to bring them into a modern context. A creature typically evoking fear is meant to reflect the fear of other cultures within the western world. As she described in an interview: “The main idea for the cockroach has always been the idea of fear…. The cockroach itself is not the most dangerous insect around us - yet it is universally considered gross.” And here they are, given an artistic flourish that renders these creatures so beautiful that they could be mistaken for blooming flora. A common piece of furniture thus reflects the struggles of those who inhabit it. A testament to the strife that comes with immigration limbo and fears of religious intolerance in the land they hope to come to. This idea then makes the placement of this piece in the airport go from an odd choice to highly apropos in its setting which sees the continuous flow of people from across the world and how they are perceived by those who do not know their culture.