“Disparition”, Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel: Challenging
Disparition (disappearance). Bushra Almutawake.
Global Voices comments (from Eloïse Lagrenée):
“Disparition” by Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel, illustrating how women could vanish into darkness and invisibility, step by step, under fundamentalist pressure and the full niqab.”
From Slate: Bushra Almutawakel says,
“I want to be careful not to fuel the stereotypical, widespread negative images most commonly portrayed about the hijab/veil in the Western media. Especially the notion that most, or all women who wear the hijab/veil, are weak, oppressed, ignorant, and backwards,” Almutawakel explained. Her photographs question the place of gender in a more subtle, often playful, way by challenging people’s expectations.
Yet Almutawakel’s way of pushing boundaries doesn’t amuse everyone. “Some men—even some Western-educated men—could not find the humour in What If, ” Almutawakel said in an email. “Some of them asked me if I was supporting the idea that men wear the veil instead of women.”
Almutawakel’s latest project for the hijab series shows how men’s traditional clothing can be similar to women’s in the Middle East. Her pictures show a woman dressed in long, loose masculine outfits that include a head covering.
By offering different ways of looking at the hijab, Almutawakel conveys a bigger picture—a picture that is far from being just black and white.”
About the Artist
Boushra Y. Almutawakel studied in the USA and Yemen and was a founding member of the Al-Halaqa in Sana’a, an artists’ group which created a space for discourse and exhibitions and forged links with international artists. Boushra has worked as a photographer for the United Nations, CARE International, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Social Organisation for Family Development, the National Institute for Health Education, The British Council, The French Embassy,and many others, while pursuing her own personal photographic projects. In 1999, she was honoured as the first Yemeni Woman Photographer, with a number of other Yemeni women pioneers by the Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Centre at Sana’a University.
In 2001 Boushra won a World Studio Foundation Scholarship toward her study for a Diploma in Advertising Photography at the Portfolio Centre, Atlanta, USA, completing the program in 2002. As a photo student, she won Mac on Campus (1st place),Show South (gold), among others and her work was published in CMYK magazine (2001-2) and GraphisNew Talent Design Annual (2002).
Boushra worked as a consultant on cultural affairs for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington (2002-3) and organised a series of events in the DC area, as part of the ‘Windows on the Cultural Heritage of Yemen”, a symposium at the Smithsonian, as well as exhibits, lectures, concerts and film screenings on Yemen. From 2005-2006 she worked at the Ministry of Human Rights in Sana’a, focusing on women’s issues, while also pursuing her photography.
Her work has been acquired by the British Museum in London, The Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Barjeel Foundation, as well as by other well known collectors. Boushra Almutawakel currently works and lives in Sana’a, with her husband and their four lovely daughters. “
In the images of ‘disparition’ (disappearing) it’s hard not to see the critique of enforced religious dress codes indicated on Global Voices.
Aesthetically one can say that this photo series has both ‘significant form’ and ‘significant content’ – indicating, through everyday images, the political and gendered significance of a developing, ever more enveloping, Islamic dress codes.
Or, more simply: Disparition is sharp and right to the point.