The Burqa, full-body cover up worn primarily by Islamic women of faith, has been subject of much controversy for decades, especially in Western societies. Many say that the garment oppresses women, leaving them astray and without a voice in a world were men dominate them.
Selina Roman‘s Burqa Project takes the Burqa and turns its literal meaning around through the medium of photography and visual composition in order to challenge the viewer’s mainstream knowledge of it.
Roman, a former reporter, hopes to offer her audience a different view point, a new way of seeing, she comments on her artist statement.
Although the Burqa is shrouded in religious significance, I take it out of this context in an attempt to explore these other attributes. Instead of showcasing it as an oppressive garment, I place the Burqa in idyllic Florida landscapes to let it float and billow. In turn, it becomes an ephemeral and weightless object removed from its politicized context.
Apart from Roman’s obvious emphasis on the beauty and femininity that these garments project, she also wants to shed light on the qualities that we often forget to acknowledge. There are many interesting characteristics that the Burqa provides to any that wears it- i.e anonymity, security, and power.
The Burqa covers a woman head to toe, with only a mesh screen for her to look out on the world. The world, however, does not see her face. For some she has just been reduced to a voluminous object that floats about the landscape. To others, her anonymity has transgressed into omniscient power. Anyone could be under that garment. Is she smiling at us from within her fabric cocoon? Is she mocking us? Sneering? We may never know. We do not know who she is or where she came from. All we know is that she is right here in front of us, occupying the space. She can leave at any second and disappear as fast as she came.
Roman is very clear in that she neutral about the subject. In turn, the images and artist’s thoughts leave all the questioning to ourselves. Could we say that the controversial Burqa is in fact liberating instead of oppressing the women that wear it? Is it a power tool? A symbol of beauty and innocence? These are all up to us to decide.