Flash Gallery 2010 Paintings

Where there is no choice there is no control

These four works were exhibited together at Brunswick Street Gallery in July 2010. The following text accompanied the presentation.

Arguments abound on the purpose and meaning of the burqa, the voluminous head to toe outer garment, and niqab, the full-face veil, of Islam. Critics of these garments are often derided for a lack of cultural savvy resulting from their uninformed prejudice, or, strangely their "racism" or "sexism". Intrinsic to my protest of these garments is that they contribute nothing toward advancing Women's Rights (as some claim) and do more to harm the cause for all Women's liberation and self determination and in particular harms efforts to advance the Human Rights of Islamic Women.

The inescapable facts surrounding these garments are that they:
- instil and reinforce a religiously endorsed gender inequality (only women are required to cover their person in such a manner in public, Koran 33:59); and
- reinforce a religiously derived idea which regards women as the sexual possession of men to be a normal part of any social contract that might exist between men and women in Islam (Koran 2:223). Women in Islam are the property of men whom they must obey for fear of physical punishment (Koran 4:34).

The word "Islam" literally translates as "submission". Whether one cares to acknowledge it or not the burqa and niqab are more than a symbolic submission of the female. The female submits before what is arguably the most patriarchal of the world religions of our time. Where it claims that it protects and elevates, it instead controls and devalues. When the sound of a woman's walk is prohibited and the visibility and presence of women hidden (Koran 24:31), then society should weep for it is not in tune to its humanity.

I am exhibiting these four new works in Painting 10A with the intention to challenge the misconception that the burqa and niqab are a matter of fashion or choice providing the wearer with security and empowerment. Rather, they are representative symbols of an ongoing ingrained and antiquated religious and cultural suppression of female sexuality, independence and self-determination.

Baleful Worship - Submission is a continuation on my general theme of religious protest, this time remarking on the characteristics of Islam and its attitudes to women as well as what is expected of its followers. Traditionally a key is symbolic of control. However, in Isochronos - Metamorphosis with Niqab, Freedom I and Freedom II, control and time (progress) is illusory. In Freedom II the keys are rendered useless and the subject continues to disintegrate behind her veil. Indeed in these three works the figure is barely animate and where a metamorphosis normally produces new life a stasis results.

I use my work to pose what can be challenging questions about life, sex, death, religion, politics and ethics. The thematic arena of my work ranges from Human Rights to the philosophical, with the occasional quirk of the imagination making relative time and space the illusion. I draw upon the past and current in human events using the historic and mythic for inspiration. The present is always represented by the figure she is the pivot and focus posing my questions to you and to the future.

©Lee-Anne Raymond

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