In 'The Veil,' an exhibition of photographs, the curly haired, highly talented Egyptian photographer Laura El-Tantawy attempts to challenge the stereotype of the headscarf as being exclusively a symbol of female oppression.
A series of compelling and highly stylized photographs currently on display at Dubai’s Gulf Photo Plus captures the veil adorned by women across cultures, from Indian to the Middle East.
El-Tantawy’s photos recount her personal experience with the headscarf, which was worn with pride by the strong and feisty women in her family. Meanwhile, her exhibition puts forward an alternative identity for the veil; an aesthetically striking and colourful symbol that transcends cultural differences.
While contemporary Arab artists and activists are inclined to portray a certain sense of intrepid rebellion against the veil, regarding it as a symbol of tyranny and oppression, El-Tantawy’s collection steers away from the popular “Why do they hate us?” rhetoric.
Recent examples of artwork that rebels against the veil include; Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdalla’s daring artwork exhibited in October 2012 in Riyadh’s first contemporary art gallery, Alaan Artspace, (...)
In an exhibition entitled 'Tank Girl,' held in a Cairo gallery last March, Egyptian artist Nadine Hammam exhibited a collection of brightly coloured nude paintings that sought to challenge the confines of Egypt’s patriarchal society.
Aliaa Elmahdy’s nude photos represent a more direct attack on female identity in Egypt and the Arab world. And of course, the artwork that appeared alongside Mona El-Tahawy’s much debated Foreign Policy article, “Why do they hate us?” which depicted a nude woman fully painted in black paint except for her eyes, is also reflective of a tendency to demonise the veil as a symbol of religious and cultural oppression within the Arab world's art scene.
However, in 'The Veil,' which opened 14 January in Dubai, London-based Egyptian photojournalist and artist Laura El-Tantawy, who grew up between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, presents a unique take on the veil. The young artist endeavoured to challenge the typical representation of the veil as a symbol of hate and repression, and instead presents a substitute paradigm that characterizes the headscarf as a beautiful force that could surpass cultural and religious boundaries.