With this visual confinement, I recall literal confinements. The house in the photographs is a large, unoccupied house belonging to my extended family. When a young woman disobeyed, stepped outside the permissible space, she was sent to this house. Accompanied by servants, but spoken to by no one, she would spend a month alone. In this silence, women can only be confined visions of femininity.
In photographing women inscribed with henna, I emphasize their decorative role, but subvert the silence of confinement. These women
"speak" visually to the house and to each other, creating a space that is both hierarchical and fluid. Furthermore, the calligraphic writing, a sacred
Islamic art form, inaccessible to women, constitutes an act of rebellion. Applying such writing in henna, a form of adornment considered
"womenís work," further underscores the subversiveness of the act. In this way, the calligraphy in the images is one of a number of visual signs that carry a double meaning. As a visual sign, the writing on the body and garments veils; as a textual form, it conveys expression.
As an artist now living in the West, I have become aware of another space, besides the house of my girlhood, an interior space, one of "converging territories." I will always carry that house within me, but my current life has added other dimensions. There is the very different space I inhabit in the West, a space of independence and mobility. It is from there that I can return to the landscape of my childhood in Morocco, and consider these spaces with detachment and new understanding. When I look at these spaces now, I see two cultures that have shaped me and that are distorted when looked at through the "Orientalist" lens of the West. Thus the text in these images is partly autobiographical. In it, I speak of my thoughts and experiences directly, both as a woman caught somewhere between past and present, as well as between "East" and "West," and also as an artist, exploring the language in which to "speak" from this uncertain space.
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