Mahnaz Rezaie: Artistic Rage and Wishful Responses to the Burqa

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Deep Blue. © Mahnaz Rezaie, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.   

 

BY MAHNAZ REZAIE, GUEST DIGITAL CURATOR | THE BURQA ISSUE | WINTER 2015|2016

 

Deep BlueIn 1981, during Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan, my father fled from a second draft and left for Iran. Shortly after,  my mother and two older siblings joined him. I was born and grew up in Iran without knowing anything about the burqa, until I finished first grade and we returned to Herat City — my parents’ birthplace.

In Herat City, it was the first time I saw my aunts wearing burqas. Their girls were fantasizing about having a burqa, which for them was similar to how girls nowadays fancy having a beautiful dress. Only married women and wealthy families had the luxury to afford buying a burqa. When a girl married, the groom gifted his bride a blue burqa with exquisite handmade embroideries. The burqa wasn’t as precious to me as it was to my cousins. I grew up seeing my mom walk out of the house bare face, wearing only her black veil. For the women in my family and for me, this was the ultimate way to cover.

When the Taliban came to Afghanistan, my mom and older sister were forced to cover their faces. My mother continued to wear her black veil and added a black sheer niqab to it. However, my older sister, who was fifteen at the time, didn’t wear the burqa nor the niqab. She kept on wearing her black veil, though she knew it was dangerous.

After two years living under Taliban regime, my family moved back to Iran. The insecurity, injustice, lack of job opportunities and schools, forced us to migrate to Iran for the second time. After the Taliban left, we returned to Herat City in 2002.

 

 

I argued with them for nights and days explaining that I didn’t want to wear the burqa because I wanted to be present. . . I didn’t want to be faceless.
 

The insecurity in Herat City continued even after the Taliban left. Girls were kidnapped and killed. Observing the unsafe situation of Herat City, my brothers and relatives started pushing me to wear the burqa. It was then that my nightmare of the burqa began. When this blue thing was forced on me, it was not a beautiful cultural garment anymore. It was a blue net, thrown to fish my identity.

Maybe if I was a girl who grew up in Afghan culture seeing my mother and sister wear the burqa, I would have worn it too without objecting. After all, we tend to follow what the majority of people do in a culture. However, I grew up in a separate culture and my standards were different. I had seen the freedom I and the women of my family had in Iran, so it was hard for me to be confined in a blue sack—or to accept the inferiority that I felt it brought.

My brothers were influenced by the culture and were insisting that I wear the burqa. I argued with them for nights and days explaining that I didn’t want to wear the burqa because I wanted to be present. I wanted to work in the society, to interact with men and women face to face, to drive, smile and be seen. I didn’t want to be faceless.

My reasons didn’t convince them. My father finally spoke and silenced everyone. “My daughter has the right to decide for herself,” he told my brothers. “You can force your own daughter to wear burqas when you get one.” He came to my rescue in a most crucial time.

Now, as an Afghan woman in the United States, I think exploring the burqa is important because it opens the conversation to a complex issue which Western audiences are not very familiar with. People often ask how a woman would bring herself to wear a burqa? It’s simple. When a girl grows up seeing her mother wear a skirt or put on make-up, she will probably want to do the same. The similar thing happens to girls in Afghanistan, they follow what they have seen growing up.  The burqa was present in Afghanistan long before the Taliban came, but it was forced on women during their reign.


Related stories

Untitled
Why Does the Hijab Get Such A Bad Rap?  — The Daily Beast


Today in Kabul, we see fashionable Afghan girls who are barely wearing their scarves, while in more conservative provinces like Helmand and Kandahar, women have to wear the burqa to protect themselves and their family’s honor. They have to respect the rules and laws of their society in order to live among people and be accepted by them. In some places, girls may not find suitors if their faces are shown. Each Afghan community and province has its own rules and cultural dynamics.

The burqa itself is not an evil thing. It is its usage that shapes its meaning. Elements of the burqa can now be seen in Vogue’s runway fashion shows, and in music videos of American pop singers like Lady Gaga. Certainly, as an artifact, the burqa is inspiring many artists to play with the idea of it and to transform its meaning.

It was a privilege to be the curator of this issue for OF NOTE magazine. As an Afghan woman and artist, I got to share my voice, my experience and my thoughts on my own personal relationship with the burqa. With any delicate subject like this, it is important to hear from those who actually lived the matter. It is they who speak best about their culture and society.

When we decided to curate an issue on the burqa, we wanted to see how artists incorporated the burqa in their art; how they gave new sense and interpretation to it. We looked to artists for which the burqa impacted their lives and the lives of women around them. We heard their personal stories of the burqa, and what it means to them. We witnessed their artistic rage and wishful responses to it.

Despite its inherent beauty, the burqa is mainly seen as a product of a patriarchal culture to oppress women. However, it can be seen differently when it is incorporated with art—when there is no force in it, when women choose it freely and use it for beautiful purposes like painting on it or creating a tableau from it.  Indeed, the burqa is an attractive object to watch, touch and display. But when it is worn regularly, it changes dynamic from art to an oppressive tool. It becomes a garment that carries many messages—political, cultural, religious, and even superstitious. The burqa then becomes an expression of inequality put into action and of protecting female virginity and beauty, while strengthening and perpetuating the rules of patriarchy.

Curated in The Burqa Issue are artists who each add a thought-provoking dimension to the discussion around the burqa. Their brave work speaks of women’s strength. They are women who question what they are told to wear, women who do not easily accept what has been commonly practiced in their culture. These artists are the voice of silenced women who wanted to raise their voice but couldn’t find an opportunity; or those who spoke out but were shut down. These artists are critical thinkers in their societies who pave bumpy roads of gender inequality with their creativity. These artists give new values and meanings to burqa.

 

MAHNAZ REZAIE

Mahnaz Rezaie was born in western Afghanistan to a Shia family that placed a high value on education. When she was eight years old, the Taliban came to power, forcing her Shia family to flee the Sunni Taliban threat. Returning to Afghanistan years later, Rezaie won a scholarship to continue her education in the United States in 2009.

Rezaie is a writer for the Afghan Women Writers Project and now mentors the online Dari workshop for women in Afghanistan who do not speak/write English. She is also a filmmaker who was honored at the recent Women in the World Summit in NYC for her short film that explores how wearing a hijab affected her relationships when she first came to the U.S. Currently, Rezaie is in the Master’s program at the Corcoran School of Art and Design at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and is at work on a novel.

 

 

 

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

126 Responses to “Mahnaz Rezaie: Artistic Rage and Wishful Responses to the Burqa”
  1. Whats Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist other users like its helped me. Great job.

  2. Earle Jubb says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox now when a comment is added I buy four emails with the same comment. Possibly there is that is it is possible to get rid of me from that service? Thanks!

  3. I not to mention my guys have already been examining the great thoughts located on your web site while before long I got a horrible suspicion I never expressed respect to the blog owner for those strategies. These women appeared to be so joyful to read all of them and now have unquestionably been taking advantage of those things. We appreciate you actually being well considerate and for opting for varieties of really good themes millions of individuals are really wanting to learn about. My honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to you earlier.

  4. yeezy 500 says:

    I wanted to develop a message in order to say thanks to you for the precious hints you are giving at this site. My time consuming internet lookup has at the end of the day been paid with beneficial details to share with my family. I ‘d tell you that many of us site visitors are undoubtedly lucky to exist in a fine website with very many special individuals with helpful opinions. I feel really lucky to have used the website and look forward to many more cool moments reading here. Thanks once more for everything.

  5. I definitely wanted to type a small comment so as to thank you for all of the stunning ways you are giving at this website. My prolonged internet lookup has at the end of the day been compensated with really good facts and techniques to write about with my companions. I would assume that we readers actually are extremely fortunate to exist in a fantastic network with many special people with very beneficial concepts. I feel really privileged to have discovered the webpages and look forward to plenty of more excellent times reading here. Thanks again for everything.

  6. hermes belt says:

    I not to mention my friends have been reviewing the good tips and tricks on your site and then developed a terrible suspicion I never thanked the site owner for those secrets. My boys happened to be as a result happy to learn all of them and have now unquestionably been making the most of them. Thanks for actually being quite thoughtful and for settling on this sort of useful things most people are really desirous to understand about. Our own sincere apologies for not expressing gratitude to you earlier.

  7. I like this weblog it’s a master piece! Glad I discovered this on google.

  8. I simply had to thank you very much once again. I’m not certain what I might have done without the advice shown by you over such question. It had become an absolute alarming setting for me personally, but taking a look at this specialised avenue you solved the issue made me to leap for happiness. I am grateful for your information and even hope that you really know what a powerful job you happen to be undertaking instructing the others through the use of a blog. I’m certain you have never met all of us.

  9. Thanks for your entire labor on this blog. My niece take interest in going through investigation and it is easy to understand why. My spouse and i notice all about the compelling ways you create valuable guidance through this blog and as well cause response from some others on the idea then our favorite simple princess is actually learning a lot of things. Take advantage of the remaining portion of the new year. You are always carrying out a pretty cool job.

  10. food court says:

    I¡¦ve been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles or blog posts on this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this website. Reading this information So i am happy to express that I have a very good uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed. I such a lot undoubtedly will make certain to don¡¦t omit this site and give it a glance on a relentless basis.

  11. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was totally right. This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  12. Wow, marvelous weblog structure! How lengthy have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The full glance of your web site is great, let alone the content!

  13. health news says:

    I am also commenting to make you understand what a nice experience my friend’s child encountered viewing your webblog. She noticed numerous things, which included what it is like to have an ideal coaching mindset to get many others with ease understand certain very confusing things. You undoubtedly surpassed my desires. Thank you for delivering the great, trusted, edifying not to mention fun tips about this topic to Jane.

  14. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

  15. curry 6 says:

    My wife and i were so thankful when Emmanuel could do his analysis out of the precious recommendations he was given through the site. It’s not at all simplistic to simply always be giving out thoughts that other folks may have been trying to sell. And we also recognize we now have you to appreciate because of that. Those explanations you have made, the straightforward site menu, the relationships you will give support to create – it is all impressive, and it’s letting our son in addition to our family imagine that the issue is enjoyable, which is really essential. Many thanks for the whole lot!

  16. My husband and i have been now more than happy when Louis could complete his survey because of the ideas he got from your very own web page. It’s not at all simplistic just to happen to be giving freely key points which usually other people have been trying to sell. We really already know we have the website owner to be grateful to for that. These explanations you made, the straightforward website navigation, the relationships your site give support to engender – it’s got most terrific, and it’s facilitating our son in addition to us consider that the situation is awesome, which is certainly really pressing. Many thanks for all the pieces!

  17. After study a few of the blog articles with your site now, and that i genuinely as if your means of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and are checking back soon. Pls have a look at my internet site in addition and figure out what you think.

  18. Good day very cool website!! Man .. Beautiful .. Superb .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds additionally¡KI am glad to find numerous useful information right here within the put up, we want work out more techniques in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  19. of course like your website but you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to inform the truth then again I will definitely come back again.

  20. Hey, you used to write magnificent, but the last few posts have been kinda boring¡K I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

  21. vapormax says:

    Thanks a lot for giving everyone such a nice chance to read articles and blog posts from this web site. It is usually very great and as well , stuffed with a good time for me personally and my office co-workers to visit your website not less than 3 times per week to read through the latest secrets you will have. And of course, I’m so at all times impressed concerning the mind-boggling points you serve. Selected 2 points in this posting are basically the finest I have ever had.

  22. timberlands says:

    I in addition to my pals were actually looking at the excellent information and facts from your website and then the sudden I got a terrible suspicion I never thanked the web site owner for those tips. The men were consequently passionate to read all of them and have really been taking pleasure in those things. Thanks for turning out to be simply considerate and also for pick out these kinds of exceptional useful guides most people are really desirous to be aware of. My personal honest regret for not expressing appreciation to you earlier.

  23. This can be an incredibly amazing powerful resource that you’re offering and you simply provide it away cost-free!! I comparable to discovering websites which view the particular worth of offering you an excellent learning resource for zero cost. We truly dearly loved examining this article. Be thankful!

  24. I just want to mention I am all new to blogging and certainly enjoyed this page. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You actually come with impressive stories. Many thanks for sharing with us your web page.

  25. jordan 13 says:

    Thank you a lot for giving everyone an extremely splendid possiblity to discover important secrets from this website. It’s usually very terrific and packed with a lot of fun for me and my office fellow workers to visit your site on the least thrice in 7 days to learn the fresh guidance you have got. And definitely, I’m so always astounded for the special concepts you serve. Some 4 facts in this posting are indeed the most beneficial we have all ever had.

  26. I think you have no idea what you are talking about, take the first better article and read about what likes and what not and then comment.

 

0 Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 0 Flares ×