Art Corner


Victoria Guggenheim

Victoria Guggenheim is an award-winning body painter who sees the expression of your sexuality, and the autonomous use of the body as a human right. Censoring the human body is an act of closed mindedness and prudery and is a form of oppression. People confuse it especially when it's on a female body, as porn. The conflation of art with porn, and the idea that a woman's body is obscene is largely due to organised religion's view of the female form.

Bodypainting isn't just a way to connect back with one’s own body, it is a source of power especially when used in conjunction with political activism such as the international day to defend Amina. The art form is visceral and immediate. It is almost impossible for one to not take notice when someone is covered in paint and with good reason - it was the first art form dating back to 300,000 years ago.

Victoria has worked with people who have disabilities and mental health issues and those who are ashamed of their body to get them to see themselves in new ways. People who are pathologically shy can become roaring dragons, people who are depressed can see themselves in a new skin, and people who are disabled can reclaim their body in a beautiful and artistic way. It often makes them realise the potential for beauty, and the strength their body has.




An Iranian Journey

 

According to a news report, Hossein Fatemi’s “An Iranian Journey” is a series that shows young people’s public modesty and piety as a result of strict rules and regulations vanishing once they escape the wary gaze of authority. These youths play music, drink, smoke, co-mingle and enjoy other activities. They are online, on Facebook, and are politically engaged and simmering, craving freer speech but stifled by the Islamic regime of Iran’s rules. “Naturally, whatever you prevent a human being from doing, it makes them want to do it more,” said Fatemi, who is represented by Panos Pictures

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Fatemi sees his task as putting in the open what is shrouded in the dark. Whether it is alcohol consumption or patronizing prostitutes, he seeks to photograph what is forbidden. Fatemi was born in 1980, one year after the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic that’s ruled since. Almost everybody he photographed in his project has only known Iranian life under theocracy.

Nevertheless, the youth of this generation, more so than their parents, is well-informed about the West, global affairs and politics. They embrace American culture and influence. They’re pacifists, he said, and more than anything else, they crave a more open society where freedom of expression and speech are protected.



Kiana Hayeri’s photographic project Beyond the Veil shows a predominantly young Iranian population (more than seventy-five percent is under the age of thirty-five) challenging compulsory hijab or veiling and restrictive rules in the way they dress or interact with the opposite sex despite fines, imprisonment and worse.

 

Many take risks to put on a bit more makeup, wear more colourful clothing, reveal bare arms, push their headscarves farther back or do things behind closed doors that are banned. Embodying a personality and determination of this generation, Beyond the Veil captures, in subtle and quiet ways, a window into this disobedience both behind closed doors and on the streets of Tehran.

 

This project not only explores the 'veil' in its literal sense of the word, the Hijab, but also as the curtain that delicately separates public and private lives of Iranians.



Burka Avenger

 

The Burka Avenger is an amazing action-comedy animated TV series shown on Pakistani televition that follows the adventures of the Burka Avenger and three young kids in the imaginary city of Halwapur as they fight the evil Baba Bandook and his henchmen.

 

The superhero is a mild mannered unveiled teacher who becomes the burka avenger when her school is threatened with being shut down by Islamists, armed with pens and books.


The fifth annual Passion for Freedom Festival was held during 4-9 November 2013 despite the original venue pulling out last minute due to ‘legal and security’ concerns. Shortlisted artists exhibited works addressing a wide range of issues, including the veil, women’s rights and freedom of expression. The winning piece - judged by an international Selection Panel was ‘The Perfect Stone’ by Victoria Burgher.


Award winning film and music maker Deeyah has released 'Iranian Woman' focusing on the music of Iranian women and their struggle for artistic expression. Under a regime that currently represses women from performing in public places, the contemporary artists in this collection are the standard-bearers for a tradition of Persian music making by women that stretches back some 3,000 years


Paradise an Afghan rap singer who focuses on women's rights and gender equality issues has recently returned to Afghanistan but faces huge amounts of difficulty; she was recently beaten and had to make her album in Tajikistan. In one of her songs Nalestan, which is dedicated to Afghan women, she sings: ‘I will get my rights whilst I am alive.’


Phillip Toledano has sourced censored packaging from Iran for his photography project ‘Absent Portraits.’  He says: Packaging in which the women have been erased. Inked out, individually, by hand. I remove the blacked-out figure from the surrounding image, and a transformation occurs. The censor becomes an artist. And the censored figure becomes a portrait. A portrait not of a person, but of absence. Of suppression. A portrait of a point of view. The censor, whose job it is to erase, becomes the person who makes us look.’


Your Fatwa does not apply here
Karima Bennoune has just published her first book: “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.” Inspired by her father Mahfoud Bennoune’s work in Algeria, it tells the stories of progressive people (journalists, artists, women’s rights activists…) who have risked everything to stand up to extremism and terror – stories rarely heard in the West. She interviewed nearly 300 people of Muslim heritage from almost 30 countries – from Afghanistan to Mali – for her book.


This is Who I am

Aryana, one of the judges of an Afghan singing competition The Voice, has received threats for appearing on TV unveiled. In an interview she says: “Being a woman, the problem is… whatever she does in Afghanistan is a problem.”

Here’s her song about the plight of Afghan women.

It ends with:
I am the subject of stoning by the nation
I am a dishonour to culture and tradition
I am a black mark on faith and religion
I am the Lady of the Land of Fire!

 


 

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