Ahaad Al Amoudi: The Burqa as a Well-Worn Modern Mask

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

mask#3

Open Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Are the masks we form of ourselves on the open culture of the Internet the same as the masks created by the burqa in Saudi Arabian society? Why is the burqa seen as a barrier to integration and communication, when daily, millions of people around the world create their own masks on the Internet? — Ahaad Al Amoudi

 

BY ZAYNAB ODUNSI| THE BURQA ISSUE |WINTER 2015|2016  

(Editor’s Note: In Saudi Arabia, the burqa is oftentimes referred to as “the niqab” — another form of face covering. For the purposes of this article, “burqa” is employed to reflect the artist’s use of the term.)

In her 2014 installation, Open Culture, Saudi Arabian artist Ahaad Al Amoudi’s acrylic masks line up like faceless soldiers. Molded from plastic, each of the twenty masks in the series are laser-etched with intricate unique designs that take their cue from nature and the body. Curious and complex, they demand attention, bearing witness to how the burqa acts as a well-worn modern mask.

The series debuted in 2014 when Al Amoudi was 22 years old and studying at Dar Al Hekma University, the progressive all women’s university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It marked the start of what Al Amoudi sees as a powerful metaphor in her art practice — the masks as symbols for both the burqa and the Internet personas we create of ourselves.


Related stories

Ahaad Al Amoudi
The Edge of Arabia – Ahaad Adulaziz Alamoudi’ — Kaleidoscot


Al Amoudi has never worn a burqa in public; it is not a social practice amongst the women in her immediate family. But as a girl who spent her formative years in the United Kingdom, and who returned to Saudi Arabia as a young woman at age 14, it was inevitable that she would struggle with social norms, like the burqa, upon being back. Women wearing the burqa is common in Jeddah, although not obligatory. Many instead wear beautifully colored and patterned abayas — a long outer cloak — over their clothing, and often pair it with the hijab (headscarf).

At Dar Al Hekma, Al Amoudi formed deeply meaningful relationships with young women from more conservative backgrounds who wore the garment publicly. At the same time, she saw them begin to use the Internet and social media to take on different personas and socialize virtually, while still remaining relatively anonymous.

Coupled with her experiences in both the West and Middle East, these observations prompted Al Amoudi to explore the questions: “Why does the Western world see the burqa as a barrier to integration and communication, instead of a freedom as expression? How does a simple black fabric on a woman’s face create so much outrage and controversy that it warrants laws to be made against it?”

The selection of portraits below from the Open Culture series is Al Amoudi’s attempt to arrive at an answer. She continues to explores these questions as a young emerging artist in the Master of Arts program at the Royal College of Art in London.


 

maskOpen Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Al Amoudi says of the masks’ intricate designs: “All the patterns used on the masks were developed from microscopic views of diseases and tumors found in the body — something that starts off small and unnoticeable but develops and takes over; almost like a thought it begins to persuade and change views and identities, forming masks or another layer of skin.”

This is her attempt at drawing comparisons between the way viruses take over its host to the way social media and the Internet are rapidly influencing the Saudi community.

 

mask#5Open Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

The widespread use of social media platforms and its embedding of the “selfie” culture into everyday Saudi society allows many young women to take on different personas that depict them as more sociable and extroverted online. Although changing, socializing virtually is a natural resolution to many of the rules about their freedom and modesty in public to which they must conform.

 

mask#2Open Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Al Amoudi took on the guise of many artistic personas — photographer, graphic designer, typographer, and performance artist—to create stark self-portraits of her donning the masks in various poses. She drew inspiration from powerful artists from the Middle East such as Shirin Neshat and from North Africa, Hassan Hajjaj, who both engage with self-portraiture in their art.

 

mask#7Open Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Al Amoudi believes the Internet and the burqa share a critical connection. In her view, the Internet mirrors the same function of the burqa — one of anonymity, freedom, and the masking of the self. However, she says, “The anonymity that the Internet grants women is not subjected to the same prejudices for women who wear the burqa.”

 

mask#8Open Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

When Open Culture was unveiled, Al Amoudi was asked if her use of graphic patterns of viruses suggested the burqa itself was a metaphor for disease. Al Amoudi asserts, “In addition to the loss of privacy, the rules of modern technology demand that we be constantly visible. The ‘disease’ is the Internet’s onslaught on Saudi identity, including a Western media’s agenda to portray women who wear the burqa as being oppressed.”

 

mask#4Open Culture. © Ahaad Al Amoudi, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

For Al Amoudi, the burqa represents both a communication barrier and a focus. “In the presence of a woman who wears the burqa, you are forced to make eye contact, leaving you with only the cues from the woman’s words and eyes,” she says. This is a very powerful position. In her view, women who wear the burqa ultimately have control over how their interactions unfold. They are less self-conscious and engage more freely, confident in the anonymity of their identities.

 

Zaynabphoto

ZAYNAB ODUNSI

Zaynab Odunsi is a Saudi-based Nigerian photographer. She divides her time as a university lecturer and a studio portrait photographer working with communities of young adults and children in West Africa, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East.

 

 

 

 

giveonlinebutton

OF NOTE Magazine is free to readers, free of advertising, and free of subscriptions—all made possible by generous supporters like you. Your tax tax-deductible gift will help us continue to feature innovative and emerging global artists using the arts as tools for social change.
OF NOTE Magazine is a fiscally sponsored organization of the New York Foundation for the Arts, a 501 (c) (3), tax-exempt organization. All donations are 100% tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

0 Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 0 Flares ×

Comments

125 Responses to “Ahaad Al Amoudi: The Burqa as a Well-Worn Modern Mask”
  1. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  2. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  3. There is obviously a bundle to know about this. I believe you made certain nice points in features also.

  4. As a Newbie, I am always browsing online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  5. I want to voice my love for your kind-heartedness for people that really need help with this important subject matter. Your very own commitment to passing the solution across had been quite important and has consistently helped women like me to get to their objectives. Your own useful help signifies this much a person like me and even further to my fellow workers. Warm regards; from everyone of us.

  6. Thanks for any other informative blog. The place else may just I am getting that type of information written in such an ideal method? I have a undertaking that I am just now running on, and I have been on the glance out for such information.

  7. I¡¦ve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or blog posts in this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this website. Studying this information So i am satisfied to convey that I have a very excellent uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I so much undoubtedly will make certain to do not put out of your mind this web site and provides it a glance on a constant basis.

  8. I’m very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.

  9. home remodel says:

    Hello.This post was really remarkable, particularly because I was investigating for thoughts on this topic last couple of days.

  10. I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  11. I wish to show some appreciation to the writer for rescuing me from this trouble. Just after surfing through the internet and getting solutions that were not powerful, I assumed my entire life was gone. Living minus the solutions to the difficulties you have solved by way of this short article is a critical case, as well as ones which might have negatively damaged my entire career if I had not encountered the website. Your knowledge and kindness in dealing with every item was very helpful. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I hadn’t come upon such a solution like this. I am able to at this moment look forward to my future. Thanks for your time very much for the reliable and amazing help. I will not hesitate to propose your web blog to any person who would like guide about this area.

  12. Conrad Lewis says:

    puppies and dogs are very cute, i always love to play with them during my spare time.

  13. I needed to post you one very small word so as to thank you very much over again for those great ideas you have shown on this website. This is surprisingly generous of you to convey unreservedly what many people would have made available as an ebook in order to make some cash for themselves, certainly considering the fact that you might well have tried it in case you desired. Those points also worked to be a fantastic way to be sure that someone else have similar interest just like my very own to learn whole lot more around this matter. I’m certain there are some more enjoyable times in the future for individuals that look over your website.

  14. I precisely had to say thanks all over again. I am not sure what I would have created without the actual suggestions discussed by you over this problem. It was a challenging case for me, nevertheless witnessing a well-written manner you treated that took me to jump for gladness. Extremely grateful for this advice as well as trust you comprehend what an amazing job you happen to be getting into teaching many others by way of your web blog. Most likely you have never got to know all of us.

  15. whoah this weblog is magnificent i really like studying your posts. Keep up the good paintings! You understand, a lot of people are searching around for this information, you can help them greatly.

  16. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the best I have found out till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you certain about the source?

  17. I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite certain I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  18. yeezy shoes says:

    I actually wanted to make a quick note to be able to express gratitude to you for those marvelous tips and hints you are showing on this site. My prolonged internet research has finally been rewarded with good quality facts to exchange with my family and friends. I ‘d tell you that most of us visitors actually are really blessed to be in a wonderful community with so many marvellous professionals with useful basics. I feel very lucky to have used the weblog and look forward to some more cool moments reading here. Thanks once again for everything.

  19. obviously like your web site but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the reality then again I¡¦ll definitely come back again.

  20. A person necessarily assist to make seriously articles I’d state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this particular put up amazing. Magnificent process!

  21. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful information specifically the last part I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular info for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  22. huaraches says:

    I’m just writing to let you be aware of what a useful experience my friend’s girl obtained going through your web site. She realized plenty of issues, most notably how it is like to possess an awesome giving character to have the mediocre ones without hassle fully grasp some complex subject matter. You truly exceeded my desires. I appreciate you for churning out such powerful, healthy, explanatory and in addition unique thoughts on your topic to Kate.

  23. I simply want to say I am very new to blogging and site-building and absolutely savored this website. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your website . You surely come with great articles. Thank you for revealing your blog site.

  24. birkin bag says:

    I simply wished to say thanks again. I am not sure the things I might have achieved in the absence of these pointers revealed by you regarding such problem. This has been the troublesome crisis in my position, but encountering this expert technique you solved that made me to jump for gladness. I’m happy for this information and pray you comprehend what a powerful job that you are providing training people today thru your webblog. I am sure you’ve never got to know all of us.

  25. Melina Rina says:

    Im no expert, but I believe you just crafted an excellent point. You certainly understand what youre talking about, and I can seriously get behind that. Thanks for staying so upfront and so honest.

 

0 Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 0 Flares ×