An old photographic series on patriarchal misogyny went viral on networks with the Afghan crisis

A photographic sequence in which a mother, her daughter and a doll disappear under the increasingly abundant fabric of a hijab and a burqa, by the Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel, became topical again with the crisis in Afghanistan with the return to the power of the Taliban, and in recent days it went viral.

The work, titled Mother, daughter and doll, it is not recent; It was made and starred by Almutawakel in 2010, but eleven years later the dynamics of social networks and the situation in Afghanistan caused it to spread and multiply.

The series of images show the transformation of a Muslim mother, her daughter and a doll, from her usual clothing to being completely covered with a burqa and, therefore, literally disappearing into a black background.

The photographer was born in Yemen in 1969 and after finishing her studies in the United States, she returned to her native country in 1994 to continue her work as an artist. In 1996, she was one of the founders of Al-Halaqa, an organization that provided a space for exhibition and discussion about art.

The impact of the series on social networks surprised the author, who lived in France and the United States and is now based in Yemen. Considered a defender of the rights of Muslim women, she went from having 1,500 followers on her Instagram account (@boushraart) to 24,000 in just two days.

However, as he told in an interview with the BBC network, Almutawakel has “mixed feelings” about the recognition that the image received in recent days. While she is glad of the repercussion her photos have had again, she believes that it has been misinterpreted and used to criticize Islam and the use of the hijab, the veil that Muslim women wear to cover their heads.

In this interview, he clarified the true message behind his work and warned that “patriarchal misogyny” is not only found in the Muslim and Arab world, but “everywhere.”

When analyzing the content of the series, the photographer considered it a comment on patriarchal misogyny: “Fear, control and intolerance. What will be enough for these extremists to accept women; how many layers will be necessary?

The artist likes to emphasize that the criticism she makes with the image is “from within” of Muslim culture: “This series is part of my work as a Muslim woman, as an Arab, as a Yemeni woman who wears the hijab”.

He also wanted to clarify that he is not against the use of the veil. “If so, I would have split my series with a woman in a bikini. But where does it say that a 5-year-old girl should cover her hair ”, he analyzed in reference to the extremist positions that seek to hide women.

Almutawakel said she was afraid to show her work in the West: “Some right-wing people have used my work to show how Islamic women are being oppressed. And my work is not about Islam, it is about extremism. It is about patriarchal misogyny, which is not only found in the Muslim and Arab world, but is everywhere ”.

“I want to be careful not to feed the negative, stereotypical and pervasive images about the hijab / veil in Western media, and especially the idea that all or most women who wear the hijab / veil are weak, ignorant, backward and they are oppressed ”, he warned opportunely in 2015 during an interview published by the site Slate.

The artist also proposes an alternative reading of the work to avoid a more linear interpretation. And he believes that the images can serve to represent “the madness of the world that goes from light to darkness” due to wars, political sectarianism, extremism and intolerance.

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