People at the exhibit, File Photo
CAIRO – 18 November 2017: A long-term exhibition of artwork by artist Karima Alshomely titled “The Emirati Burqa: an Intimate Object” provides a personal and in-depth look at the relationship between woman, Emirati culture and the burqa.
Running from November 15, 2017 until June 8, 2018, the exhibition comprises a wide variety of works in multiple platforms, all related to themes about the burqa – from materials and construction to more personal aspects, such as its smell, individuality, and memories associated with it and its history related to the wider culture. The artist, Alshomely, has a bachelor’s of fine arts from the University of Sharjah and a master’s of fine arts from the University of the Arts London, along with a doctorate in fine arts, which she completed at London’s Kingston University.
Manal Ataya, general director of the Sharjah Museums Authority, said in a statement, “We are confident that visitors will not regard the burqa in the same way again; whether they develop a better understanding of its history and the materials used in its design or in the reaffirmation of its important place in Emirati society.”
Once an everyday article of clothing for women in the Emirates, recent cultural changes have seen its status shift from common attire to a heritage status symbol, worn during important occasions and serving as a symbol of the UAE’s cultural heritage.
Alshomely mentioned her childhood fascination with her grandmother’s burqa, and much of the pieces are thus related to her own personal experiences with the cloth, including photographs of her youth.
In her own words regarding how she views the burqa in a released statement, the artist stated, “I perceive the burqa to be an intimate object. As a material object, an item of dress, an accessory or a marker of status, the burqa can be seen as a thing in the world that exists outside of the individual subject. Yet, as this artwork shows, the burqa has been part of Emirati women’s social and cultural identity, and it is also deeply personal to each individual woman.”
The exhibition aims at challenging visitors’ preconceptions about the burqa and providing them a change to view the clothing with a new mindset.