By Gihan Hafez
“I hope that my art might challenge the narrow perceptions of Muslims.” – Saba Barnard
My piece of art is called True Colors. True Colors expresses the stereotypes found for Muslim women on the Internet. The top of my piece includes photos of Muslim women from all around the world. Under it is the Internet symbol to signify the role of the media, and then follows pictures of veiled women.
My idea is to show how Muslim women are portrayed in the media, how narrow-minded people become about the image of a Muslim woman. As you can see, the top part of my piece shows women from different backgrounds, ethnicity, culture, race and nationality. I wanted to show the diversity of Muslim woman. I used the Wi-Fi symbol to represent a funnel/filter that these women go through in the media and what it results. It has Kufic Islamic inscriptions to represent Islam. It is obvious how happy and colorful the Muslim women are compared to the veiled stereotypes. I came up with this idea as I was searching for women in Islam, and on Google, as I searched “Muslim Women” I got results with a page full of veiled women, some abused, some protesting. This disappointed me as it made me think how people around the world perceive us; they don’t know the real us. Dubai is the perfect country for this example, it is full of a diversity of Muslim women, just by taking a walk in the street, you can find several types of Muslim women and this is one of the most things that fascinate me about this city. Why are we shown this way in the Internet? It is sad that I, a Muslim woman, cannot relate to even one photo that is displayed in Google images. I have nothing against veiled women I respect them, but are we not considered Muslim women just because of our choice of cover or clothing? Islam is not all about veiling, it is about peace, about diversity, about knowledge and these images portray none of that. Why does the media butcher our religion? Why can’t we be shown for who we are, the way other religions are shown?
As I saw these images, I began to research to find other people who talk or express about this topic. I found a particular artist called Saba Barnard. Barnard is a Muslim Pakistani artist born and raised in America. She inspired me and made me see everything differently. Barnard is known for her portraits of Muslim women. However, the way she portrays them is very interesting. About her series of portraits “An-Noor” she said “I hope that the paintings reflect more of a fluid identity, one that includes elements from Eastern and Western cultures, the old and the new, the masculine and the feminine all in one image.” Barnard loves to display the diversity of women with colors; this inspired me to do my piece.
Doing this piece I used a collage technique by cropping and putting photos together, I also added textures and patterns using software. The dimensions of my piece are 59.4cm x 84.1cm (A1). I named it True Colors as I explored and portrayed the true side of women in Islam.
My name is Gihan Hafez, I am a Muslim Egyptian woman and I believe in honesty and truth, which is why I was offended by this media portrayal. I hope in the future this narrow-minded image of us changes in the media and in the minds of other civilizations.