Tuesday, September 2, 2014

AN ARTIST, A FEMINIST AND A WOMAN OF THE MIDDLE EAST

Boushra Almutawakel is an enigma in the Middle East, but she is a growing part of young women artists who are exploring the myth of women and their identity in a culture that romanticism women and restricts them. 

Disappearing Woman                                      Boushra Almutalwakel

For those of us that are from Western cultures it is hard to understand women who cover themselves so completely, but one point of view Boushra had made since to me….she stated it is like Western women who cover themselves with makeup and you can not see their real selves. Growing up I knew little about the Middle East other than what may have been mentioned about the Crusades and Infidels.  I don't think I even knew what infidels were or where they lived.  
Then came Lawrence of Arabia and my next view of the Middle East was formed, tribes primitive tribes that fought and struggled to form one cohesive body to fight the British control.
  The call to prayer, the women's clothing, the seeming harshness of the culture all started to build a romantic vision in my mind of flowing robes, turbans, deserts, camels, and women hidden behind carved screens in a harem.  It was not until I went to college that me view again changed and then again not until well into adulthood.  But the most dramatic change for me was living in Izmir, Turkey and learning more about Islam and women's role with in the country and religion.  Turkey was at the time a very Western leaning Middle Eastern country and the more religious women might cover their hair or wear a loose covering that did not show the shape of their body.  And living two years in Turkey gave me just a peak behind the myth I had formed from childhood.   The Call to Prayer, was no longer chilling to me, but welcoming.  People were friendly and hospitable to me as a foreigner.  I knew that women, that were not Western, were not treated as equally as I was.  In my travels in Turkey as I went Eastward the customs were more and more rigid and restrictive for women.  


Boushra Almutalwakel         Portrait of Mother and Daughter         from google for purpose of art advocacy
I have read that in some areas of the Middle East women are not allowed to drive and that they must carry a passport to go from one part of town to another.  I have also read non fiction books that document women's struggle to win more freedom and rights that are often met with harsh punishment.  I still struggle to understand what is cultural and what is religious in the restrictions applied to women. 

I look forward to seeing more of Boushra's examination and conversation about her culture in Yemen as well as other pioneer young women artists of the Middle East.  They help us all break down stereotypes and gain a clearer understanding of Eastern culture that seems so different from our own.


 Photography by Boushra Almutawakel                              from google for the purpose of art education
Boushra Amutawakel, a penner among Yemeni female photographer, found these ideas stimulating and decided to interpret them photographically.  As she recalls, after September 11th and increase in 'all things Middle Eastern' took place, either demonizing or romanticizing Arabs and Muslims.  Part of the Romanticism, she elaborates "is  was Middle Eastern women have been portrayed artistically as exotic mysterious creatures".  She wanted to challenge through her work "Wester, Arab, and Islamic views and stereotypes", trying to "look at things from different perspectives and approaching the many layers "she seems in this subject."  Source Nafas Art Magazine

Boushra Almutwakel challenges us all to think about the roles of culture and the female image and role in society.

Untitled by Boushra Almutawakel  Yemin Photographer
from google for art advocacy




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