Muslimah Women Artists: Empowering Change Globally
Paley Center for Media
New York, NY
February 26, 2014
The International Museum of Women’s groundbreaking online exhibition, Muslimah: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, was created to counter the absence of voices of Muslim women worldwide. The exhibit features work by a diverse group of women to break down stereotypes and provide Muslim women with a voice.
Samina Ali, the curator of Muslimah, led a panel of participating artists and journalists at the Paley Center for Media in New York, to discuss their work as well as current perceptions of Muslim women in America.
The panelists included Maria Ebrahimji, former producer at CNN for fifteen years, Sadaf Syed, a photojournalist for Al Jazeera America, and Maimouna Guerresi, an Italian artist who converted to Islam.
When asked what inspired their work and how they were influenced by Islam, Maimouna stated that emotions, sensations, and stimulations lead to her creations, and this transformation is supported by Islam. The unifying theme of her work is liberation of the female.
Sadaf wants to provide a platform for stories inspired by Islam, and to show the similarities between Muslim women and non-Muslim women, by documenting them in their everyday lives. This is demonstrated in her bookiCover: A Day in the Life of a Muslim-American COVERed Girl, which shatters stereotypes about Muslim women’s lives.
Maria described herself as a truth seeker, which is encouraged in Islam, and inspired her work as a journalist. She said the increase in more diverse photos of Muslims is a step towards America’s acceptance, and mentioned the Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial where a woman in a hijab is drinking a Coke as an example of progress. Maria explained that CNN executives are mainly white males, and she feels that more diversity is needed among the decision makers at the highest levels.
Responding to an audience question about speaking negatively about Muslims, Syed stressed the need for more educated and positive views of Muslim women and the community.
Maria, who was condemned by the Muslim community for speaking out about negative issues after 9/11, acknowledges that the Muslim community wants to defend and protect themselves when they fall short. However, Muslim American women should be able to speak about all issues, which will benefit everyone in the long run.
Samina discussed how Islam is becoming more intolerant in many countries, and mentions the work of photographer Boushra Almutawakel, whose “veil series” is part of the online exhibition. Her chain of family photos, which show the covering up of women and girls, powerfully illustrates Yemen’s tilt toward conservatism, for example.
The evening ended on a positive note, as Maimouna stated “women are the force for change; the world will change when women change it.” The Muslimah exhibition is a powerful step in this direction.
25 W 52 St
New York, NY 10019
Google map and directions