Muslim women artists: Challenging stereotypes
Muslim women artists: Challenging stereotypes
In this era in which the blatant practice of jingoism, radicalism and political violence challenges human existence, sentiments, in general, seems to run very high! Right from fabrication of events to the social and political stereotyping, every event seems to push people to the brink and forces them to vent their feeling through different media of expression. While some take the conventional route, artists trying to express the chaos through a more subtle medium. The existing sense of confusion shared by most artists these days is expressed best by the Muslim women who have been stereotyped for decades now.
To add to that, Islamophobia, a fear that has come to be deeply rooted in the people’s psyche, apart from several religious and social typecast of the Muslim world has forced the Muslim women artists to emerge from the darkness of oblivion and break the notion. They are trying to build a new world from the ashes, like the proverbial ‘Phoenix bird’, and through every medium of expression, they are attempting to approach the human banality with fresh and playful approach in an assertive manner.
Several Muslim women have also become curators, in their attempts to strike a chord between imagery and perception through their collection. Sara Foryame, a visual artist, explains, “We can easily occupy the online sphere as displaying our work in a gallery has proven difficult for many. The only way Muslim women can really gain visibility within the art sphere is to take control of the gaze, become curators and form collections in order to exhibit work that narrates their true purpose.”
Though several Muslim women artists have tried to reject the stereotype through their medium of expression, very few have succeeded. There are few Muslim women artists who have defied all odds to bring to the light the reality of the Muslim. Here are a few whose work we found admirable:
Satire seems to be Habibi’s favourite medium of expression, in which she is seen ridiculing the typecasting of the Muslim world by the west.
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Be it France’s controversial Burqa ban or questioning the distorted perception of the Western countries about Muslim women, Habibi’s creations are replete with playfulness. She says, “I’d say that a lot of my work is about questioning the way we see or are seen, whether that is in relation to gender, religious norms or contemporary politics.”
It is the prejudice of the media that drives Sara Foryame to experiment with photography and collage. Through her creations, she manages to put forth her view with confidence.
“I always revisit faith, identity and gender throughout my work. I deal with issues that I and many other Muslim women are going through. I have a passion for sharing their stories, for sharing mine in a hope it encourages some sort of reflection,” she says. Foryame’s collection focuses on stereotypes where Muslim women are always seen as a homogenous group.
Addressing the spectrum of issues like the war-ravaged Muslim states, women status or UK’s dysfunctional counter-terror approach, Sofia Niazi’s illustrations look like a sincere attempt to narrate stories in the simplest manner. The collection seems to be a contemporary portrayal of several complicated issues.
On her collection, Niazi says, “If anything, I think my work reflects my life as a post-internet person more than it does to a Muslim woman. There are so many young Muslim women creating really interesting work at the moment, initiating their own projects, holding exhibitions, joining collectives, creating engaging content and creating their own opportunities.”
Having studied at London’s University of the Arts, Naizi has honed her skills well, and founded ‘One of My Kind’ (OOMK) magazine that gives an ideal podium to the women artists from various ethnicity and spiritualism and celebrates their creativity.
“There is fundamentally nothing difficult to understand or comprehend that is particular to Muslim women and the attention around Muslim women isn’t created by misunderstanding. I wish more people would understand racism as a technology and turn the heat on racists, anti-black people and Islamaphobes to try and figure out why they’re so trashed and garbage instead of trying to understand Muslims and pathologize Muslim women,” she opines.
In contrast, Maryam Dinar’s work that revolves around her home country, Iran, is a panoramic delight with lavish landscapes and impressive skyline.
Dinar says, “I wish the world, especially the West, would seek more knowledge about the Iranian people and their genuine situation rather than being so utterly blinded by the way the government makes us appear. People are so busy with seeing Iran as this huge global enemy, and its citizens receive the majority of the backlash of that rage. It’s unfair. Iranians are such misunderstood people, and they deserve much better that what’s been thrown their way.”
Dinar’s Instagram account-@uncr8tive- shares the other side of Iran, which is refreshing and gorgeous.
“I want to challenge the widespread notion that Muslim women are one-dimensional and talentless,” she says.
Muhammed’s creation is rebellious in every sense, be it to reject the idea of tokenism or internet’s colonial dialects. The ease and boldness, with which she questions all the stereotypes, substantiate most of her claims that she makes about the Muslim world being misunderstood.
Muhammed quips, “Truthfully, I think some of my work would be problematic if I wasn’t a Muslim. But it is exciting and I like the kind of cheeky feeling of being scandalous like that. I try not to take art too seriously, so it all fits.”
She further adds, “I think what I wish people would understand that Muslim women are more than just their Hijabs (or their lack of it).”