Feminist Art In Islam

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In this project I will be looking at feminist art and its effects, influences and relations in the Islamic culture.

I want to explore and study some of the impacts the and differences between eastern and western cultures on feminist arts and artists. In particular I will be looking at Shirin Neshat, an Iranian born visual artist, film maker and photographer whose artwork evolves around the contrasts between Islam and western cultures, her work is both political and controversial, she focuses on feminism and women experiences in the Islamic world. I have also taken interest in Shadi Ghadirian, a contemporary photographer artist who lives and works in Tehran, she uses her experience and influences as a Muslim woman living in an Islamic state, she looks at traditions and modernity of the women of Iran as well as contradictions in day to day life.

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Feminist in Islam

In Iran and largely in the Islamic cultures lives of female artists have always been determined by politics and religious ethics. And so, we look at the veil, the hijab, this is a repository for all kinds of personal and political meanings. The veil its meaning, its views has always been looked at in different light, every nation, each era and each individual will always vary. The simplistic word “veil” refers to a multitude of coverings all defined by religious interpretations and affiliations, status, age, personal modesty, government authority, society expectations and cultural fashions. These many factors have all contributed un-veiling and re-veiling in Iran and elsewhere in the world. Alternative maternities feature in the aims of the constitutional Revolution of 1905, the Pahlavi era between 1925 and 1979, and in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In contrast Iranian females have both enthusiastically donned the veil and resigned themselves to wear it.

Islamic feminism has been debated by notable scholars in modern time. Valentine Moghadam in 'Islamic Feminism and Its Discontents: Toward a Resolution of the Debate' analyses the Iranian debate around Islamic feminism insofar as it is composed of three intersecting histories. The first is the origins, evolution, and gender dynamics of Islamic fundamentalism. Second, is the political evolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and its creation of a gender regime. And the third discussion is the global differences and similarities in the women’s movement and their respective definitions of feminism. The Islamization of Iran under the IRI was an attempt to regain cultural authenticity out of the grasp of Western hegemony, but it was problematized by the history of Islamic fundamentalism. A synopsis of the political evolution around the IRI’s gender regime sets the stage for Neshat. Under the Shah regime the modernization campaign began based on the glamorized west, this in turn would leave cultural integrity behind. In this era women where prohibited from wearing the ‘Hijab’. All these factors contributed in the results of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw Ayatollah Khomeini and IRI to power. The violent revolution which tore through the national disconnect at the domineering western influences, and the Islamic state was born and established. Under the regime lead by Khomeini nationalism was conflated with religiosity was born. Khomeini soon after proclaimed himself Supreme Spiritual Leader of Iran, Head of State for Life, and the Leader of the Revolution. And as a result we saw cultural changes to the state, women’s rights was rolled back virtually overnight after 70 years of advancements, the Hijab became a core for the Islamic society, women’s rights were revoked, professional women were fired in masse and encouraged/told to take up household duties, caring for children and husbands. Several women’s protection laws were changed almost immediately, such as family protection laws, marriage laws, adultery laws, segregation of sexes in public places, family planning and some bold and extreme laws such as closing nurseries stating nurseries depriving children from motherly love and Islamic upbringing. And of course, the overnight Dress code banning, the new laws saw the banning of western clothing and requiring women to completely cover by a traditional Hijab in public at all times, no hair, no open toed shoes to be bare. The regime bought forward a special government agency to enforce these new moral laws.

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat is celebrated contemporary international artist, who crosses boundaries of nationality, cultures and artistic media, she was born in Iran and Immigrated in United State as age 17 to attend the university of California, after 12 years she returned to Iran and after serval visit, she found the country transformed by Islamic revolution, her resulting sense of displacement and exile inspired her to work in photography and film, she has produced pieces that investigates cultural conflicts and tradition.

Her first artistic work called “Women of Allah” which was a set of black and white photographs made in 1993-97, focusing on the subject of the revolution and concept of “martyrdom”. Some element of photographs was repeated over and over again in that series, such as the female body, sexuality text, poetry of female women writers and the veil, her book “Woman of Allah” published in 1997 and it was a document this series of photographs.

Other artwork she made was a film called “Women Without Men”, made in 2009, this work was a collaboration with Shoja Azari, who’s a writer, film maker and actor.

This film is about gender issue in the Islamic world, the film is showing the lives of four women with all different level of society and living in Tehran, during the Iranian coup in 1953 which was a overthrow of the democratically elected the prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and that returned the shah of Iran to power, The film made in Morocco.

Although this is not supposed to be a realistic story, the narrative still has its sticking points. Neshat, who has used human figures in her video installations as living objects rather than individual characters, hasn’t really changed her stance here, with each of her four heroines acting as symbols rather than developing an independent identity of their own.

Another work of her is “The Home of my Eyes”, which is a selection of 55 photographic portraits.

When Neshat first travelled to Azerbaijan in March 2014, she became inspired by its cultural diversity. Drawing from this, Neshat took portraits of local Azerbaijanis of all ages, who she individually selected, interviewed and photographed. During their meetings, she asked her subjects four questions relating to their ideas of 'home,' a particularly poignant topic for Neshat who has been in self-imposed exile from Iran since 1996. Each person's answers, translated from Azeri to English to Farsi, were handwritten onto their portraits, covering just their skin surface. Also inscribed were texts by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, considered one of Azerbaijan's most influential literary figures.

Shadi Ghadirian

She’s a contemporary photographer artist, she born in Iran at 1974, She studied art and photography. Her work is influenced by her experiences as a Muslim woman. She explores the topics of censorship, religion, modernity and the status of women.

Ghadirian first artwork called Qajar, which is a series of portrait of women wearing cloths of fashion from Qajar time (Iranian royal dynasty) from 1785 to 1925, short skirts and baggy trousers underneath, headscarf and thick black eyebrows. she hired painter to paint the background like that time and added contemporary western props, like Pepsi can, phone or vacuum cleaner etc, she said about this artwork: ” My picture became a mirror reflecting how I felt, we are stuck between tradition and modernity”

Ghadrian’s another artwork is a series called “Like Every Day”, which is some women covered with veil, and their face are household object, such as gloves, kettles, iron, pan and etc. Her image describes a positive and holistic female identity, and each of the colour photographs depicts a figure draped in patterned fabric in place of the typical Iranian veil.

Her work relates with her personal life as a Muslim woman living in Iran, and her artworks deals with problems that Muslim women have around the world, she questions the role of women in society and explores ideas of censorship, religion, modernity and status of women. Ghadirian’s photographs is about her experience as a woman living in a Muslim country. Her works is also interested around the world, and been in galleries and museums in Europe, USA, Australia, Mexico, Russia, Dubai etc.

One of her series “Miss Butterfly” is a collection of black and white photographs, and on each image features a single woman diligently working to complete an intricate spider web within a domestic setting, the cold and empty environment produces feeling of isolation and disconnect with surrounding world.

Include in her powerful photographs, she made stories that talk about a young butterfly, who’s going to see the sun and in her way greeted by a spider and become captive in his web, but he told her he will free her and show her the way to sun and instead bring him insects, but she rather than sacrificing another offer herself to spider, Spider likes her bravery and let her free, and show her the way to the sun. Miss butterfly told about spider and her freedom to all insects, but she didn’t get any respond, but she was disappointed of other so opened her wing and fly off toward the sun.

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Feminist Art In Islam. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/feminist-art-in-islam/
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