54 x 100 cm
In this triptych a woman in a colorful Yemeni hijab/veil assumes traditional prayer poses of the three Abrahamic religions, indicative of the central role that religion plays in the region.
Since September 11, I have been compelled to create images on the veil, particularly since Islam and Muslims had taken international center stage. I found that we, as Arabs and Muslims, were either demonized or romanticized. Part of this paradoxical portrayal is the way Middle Eastern women have been portrayed artistically and/or in the media, as exotic, beautiful, and mysterious; or helpless, oppressed and ugly. Part of this portrayal, in many cases, has included the hijab.
In this project on the hijab/veil I explore the many faces and facets of the veil based on my own personal experiences and observations: the convenience, freedom, strength, power, liberation, limitations, danger, humor, irony, variety, cultural, social, and religious aspects, as well as the beauty, mystery, and protection.
I also 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. Furthermore, I hope to challenge and look at both Western and Middle Eastern stereotypes, fears, and ideas regarding the veil.
Born in Sana’a, Yemen, in 1969, Boushra Y. Almutawakel studied in the USA and Yemen, obtaining a BSBA in International Business at the American University in Washington, DC. It was during her time as a student, that she became interested in photography. On her return to Yemen in 1994 she continued developing her photographic work, participating in many group exhibitions. In 1996 she 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.
In 1998, Boushra became a full-time photographer, and some of her clients have included 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, the French Cultural Center, Nixen, Foundry, Business & Accounting Magazine, fd.Outlook, Yemen Today, as well as various commercial and individual clients, while pursuing her own personal photographic projects. In 1999, she was honored 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. She and her work have been featured and published in Yemen Times, Yemen Observer, Yemen Today, Artasiapacific Almanac 2011, El Pais, Muse, Yo Donna, De L”air, Beaux Arts, Photo, Connaissance des Arts, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia Art, The Guardian,and Punctum. Her work has also been featured in the web magazine Nafas Art Magazine and photo blogs such as 500 Photographers, Greater Middle East Photo, Mrs. Deane, The Rachel Maddow, Slate’s Behold photo blog, Culturfphiles, and the New Yorker’s Photo Booth, New York Times Photo Blog, the International Museum of Women, among others..
Boushra worked as a consultant on cultural affairs for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington (2002-3). 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 France, with her husband and their four lovely daughters.