Plans, artist research and reflections with regards to all my work produced in my second year of university.
H F Gardner Artwork
The question of Islamic headdresses and it's significance in the ISIS regime.
So after delving into a lot of research on Soviet Union women and the way they were treated under a Stalinist society, I questioned how this would then be viewed as a relevant piece of art that had connotations about the place of women in today's society. After doing research into current affairs, I soon came across articles about the role of women in the ISIS regime which led me to become interested in the different connotations that can be drawn from the Abaya.
A sign of dignity and respect
I looked up the significance of the abaya for women (unrelated to ISIS) and I found some quotes from women who wear them:
- 'One is never overdressed or underdressed in an elegant black abaya'.
- 'When I wear an Abaya, I feel connected to my religion, my culture and my ethnicity'.
- 'It creates a greater sense of equality amongst women because no matter how different the design of an abaya is, the basis is still the same'.
I found it very interesting how the meaning of the abaya generally, becomes so different when it is used in Propaganda for ISIS and also the way it is talked about in the media in Western Culture: The abaya becomes a tool to advertise ISIS as the 'Purest form of Islam' and women are glorified in photographs holding guns, showing that joining ISIS gives them more freedom and choice.
A barrier from communication and the truth
However, the abaya also hides victims of war. The Yezidi women within the ISIS regime are held as sex slaves, they are forbidded from education, if abayas and black gloves are not worn, they are brutally beaten. In this way, the abaya covers and prohibits the female body from expressing and revealing the trauma and oppression that women frequently suffer from. In this sense, as well, the act of making women undistinguishable from one another and making them wear these abayas, despite the fact that it isn't revealing and provocative like the way women have been displayed as a sexual object in Western culture, still displays them as a sexual object to men. Under ISIS the abaya becomes a symbol for the the Jihadi man's possession of the Yezidi woman as his sex object and her lack of freedom. I found some footage to back up this of a former Yezidi woman throwing off her abaya after she escaped from Syria.
I also read in articles how the veils and materials worn by Catholic and Christian nuns was used as a disguise for many maltreatments such as food shortages and forced changes to physical appearance that went on among sisters in Nunneries. For example, I read a daughter's account of her mother's treatment:
"Even though my mother’s brown curls could easily have been covered by the enormous habit she wore she was forced to have it cut off by the presiding sisters. The goal of the closely-shorn head, explained my mother’s younger sister, who also became a nun in the 1950s, was “to make everyone forget that we were women.”"
The veil again becomes a tool to signify that women are possessed by man or a being - in the nun's situation, they belong to God.
Reading these articles has lead my piece in the direction of portraying ritualistic religious imagery within my expressive dance underneath the sheet and letting that be controlling the movement of the sheet visible to the audience. I don't want to make this a direct reference about these articles - ie. I don't want the audience to come away from the piece knowing that I had done this research. I would like it to be portrayed as an open metaphor that can then transcend into the audience's own interpretations.