[Reader-list] Princess Hijab

Britta Ohm ohm at zedat.fu-berlin.de
Sun Nov 14 20:30:21 IST 2010

Thanks Inder, for the Magritte links, really interesting; hope you  
don't mind I forwarded one of the pics (the second) onto my facebook- 
site, where the Princess-article has been circulating as well.
Best -- Britta

Am 13.11.2010 um 10:40 schrieb Inder Salim:

> http://media.photobucket.com/image/magritee/girto/magritte-rape.jpg
> http://www.artnet.com/Galleries/Artwork_Detail.asp?G=&gid=1161&which=&ViewArtistBy=&aid=661456&wid=77723&source=artist&rta=http://www.artnet.com
> above two interesting paintings by Magritte
> thanks Dear for posting the detailed report about
> this artist Princess Hijab's action , a  very profound,
> and it not certainly tilted towards the Burka Pasand ideology, there
> the women are supposed not to expose even little hair on the forehead,
> no naked feet, let alone the hair upon legs and thighs,
> it is a very serious work and critics the  heavily tilted bourgeoisie
> culture prevalent there.
> hope to read some  more comments on this by others too, which is a
> world wide debate at the moment
> love
> is
> On Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 10:03 AM, SJabbar <sonia.jabbar at gmail.com>  
> wrote:
>>  Cornered  Princess Hijab, Paris's elusive graffiti artist
>> Princess Hijab daubs Muslim veils on half-naked fashion ads on the  
>> metro.
>> Why does she do it? Is she a religious fundamentalist? And is she  
>> really a
>> woman? Angelique Chrisafis meets the elusive street artist
>> Angelique Chrisafis
>> The Guardian,     Thursday 11 November 2010
>> Just after dawn at Havre- Caumartin metro station, Paris's first  
>> commuters
>> are stepping on and off half-empty trains. Then, at the end of the  
>> platform,
>> a figure in black appears, head bowed and feet tapping with nerves.
>> Princess Hijab is Paris's most elusive street artist. Striking at  
>> night with
>> dripping black paint she slaps black Muslim veils on the half-naked
>> airbrushed women  and men  of the metro's fashion adverts. She  
>> calls it
>> "hijabisation". Her guerrilla niqab art has been exhibited from New  
>> York to
>> Vienna, sparking debates about feminism and fundamentalism  yet her
>> identity remains a mystery.
>> In secular republican France, there can hardly be a more potent  
>> visual gag
>> than scrawling graffitied veils on fashion ads. Six years after a  
>> law banned
>> headscarves and all conspicuous religious symbols from state schools,
>> Nicolas Sarkozy's government has banned the niqab from public  
>> spaces amid a
>> fierce row over women's rights, islamophobia and civil liberties.  
>> The "burqa
>> ban", approved last month, means that from next year it will be  
>> illegal for
>> a woman to wear full-face Muslim veils in public, not just in  
>> government
>> offices or on public transport, but in the streets, supermarkets  
>> and private
>> businesses. The government says it is a way of protecting women's  
>> rights and
>> stopping them being forced by men to cover their faces.
>> Already this has prompted extreme reactions. One female teacher in  
>> favour of
>> the ban was last week given a month's suspended jail sentence for  
>> trying to
>> rip a veil from the face of a 26-year-old Emirati tourist in a  
>> shop, then
>> slapping, scratching and biting her. On the other side of the  
>> argument, two
>> French women calling themselves "niqabitch" reproduced the classic  
>> visual
>> mixed metaphor of walking around central Paris in niqabs, black  
>> hotpants,
>> bare legs and high heels, posting a film of it online in order to  
>> highlight
>> the "absurdity" of the ban.
>> But Princess Hijab got there first, and her simple, almost  
>> childlike acts of
>> sabotage with a black marker pen still manage to be the most  
>> unsettling,
>> with the widest audience abroad. Yet who is she? A French Muslim  
>> woman in
>> hijab raging at the system? That would be a rare thing on Paris's
>> male-dominated graffiti scene. Is she a religious fundamentalist  
>> making a
>> point about female flesh? But she likes to leaves a witty  
>> smattering of
>> buttock cheeks and midriff on display. If she's a leftwing feminist  
>> making a
>> point about the exploitation of women, it's odd that she always  
>> flees the
>> scene of her crimes. Is she even Muslim? Her fans like to imagine a  
>> young
>> rebel outsider from Paris's suburban ghettos travelling to the  
>> capital to
>> make her mark. But like Paris's greatest street artist, Blek le Rat  
>> ‹ who
>> inspired Britain's Bansky ‹ she could turn out to be a  
>> fiftysomething white
>> man who voted for Sarkozy.
>> The Princess winds through the corridors of Havre-Caumartin sizing  
>> up the
>> advertising posters lining the walls. She has agreed to meet as she  
>> scours
>> stations for targets for her next "niqab intervention". In Spandex  
>> tights,
>> shorts and a hoodie, with a long black wig totally obscuring her  
>> face, one
>> thing is clear; the twentysomething doesn't wear the niqab that has  
>> become
>> her own signature. She won't say if she's a Muslim. In fact, it's  
>> more than
>> likely that Princess Hijab isn't even a woman. There's a low note  
>> in her
>> laughter, a slight broadness to her shoulders. But the androgynous  
>> figure in
>> black won't confirm a gender. "The real identity behind Princess  
>> Hijab is of
>> no importance," says the husky voice behind the wig. "The imagined  
>> self has
>> taken the foreground, and anyway it's an artistic choice."
>> "I started doing this when I was 17," she says (I'll stick to "she"  
>> as the
>> character is female, even if the person behind it is perhaps not).
>> "I'd been working on veils, making Spandex outfits that enveloped  
>> bodies,
>> more classic art than fashion. And I'd been drawing veiled women on
>> skate-boards and other graphic pieces, when I felt I wanted to  
>> confront the
>> outside world. I'd read Naomi Klein's No Logo and it inspired me to  
>> risk
>> intervening in public places, targeting advertising."
>> The Princess's first graffiti veil was in 2006, the "niqabisation"  
>> of the
>> album poster of France's most famous female rapper, Diam's, who by  
>> strange
>> coincidence has now converted to Islam herself. "It's intriguing  
>> because
>> she's now wearing the veil," the Princess muses. Intially she  
>> graffitied
>> men, women and children and then would stand around to gauge the  
>> public's
>> response; now she does hit-and-runs. "I don't care about people's  
>> reactions.
>> I can see this makes people feel awkward and ill at ease, I can  
>> understand
>> that, you're on your way home after a tough day and suddenly you're
>> confronted with this."
>> With the Paris metro protective of its advertising spaces, her work  
>> now
>> usually stays up for only 45 minutes to an hour before being ripped  
>> down by
>> officials. She has become highly selective, doing only four or five  
>> graffiti
>> "interventions" in Paris a year. But each is carefully photographed  
>> and has
>> its own afterlife circulating online. The "niqabised" range from  
>> Dolce &
>> Gabbana men's underwear to risque adverts for Virgin bookshops.
>> Why does she do it? "I use veiled women as a challenge," she says,  
>> quick to
>> add that she believes no one way of dressing is either good or bad.  
>> She's
>> not defending the rights of any group and no one needs her as a
>> spokesperson. "That's paternalistic. If veiled women want to make a  
>> point,
>> they'd do it themselves. If feminists want to do something they're  
>> capable
>> of doing it on their own." She later explains by email: "The veil  
>> has many
>> hidden meanings, it can be as profane as it is sacred, consumerist  
>> and
>> sanctimonious. From Arabic Gothicism to the condition of man. The
>> interpretations are numerous and of course it carries great  
>> symbolism on
>> race, sexuality and real and imagined geography."
>> Princess Hijab is deliberately cool and detached, but the one issue  
>> that
>> really shakes her  and perhaps reveals a little of her true  
>> identity  is
>> the place of minorities in France. Beyond the arguments about  
>> whether Muslim
>> women should cover their heads, Sarkozy's new ministry of  
>> "immigration and
>> national identity" and his national debate on what it means to be  
>> French has
>> stigmatised the already discriminated and ghettoised young people  
>> of third-
>> and fourth-generation immigrant descent. France has the largest  
>> Muslim
>> population in Europe, but the prevailing anti-immigrant discourse,  
>> and what
>> many view as a pointless burqa ban, has increased the feelings of
>> marginalisation felt by young Muslims and minorities.
>> Princess Hijab sees herself as part of a new "graffiti of minorities"
>> reclaiming the streets. "If it was only about the burqa ban, my work
>> wouldn't have a resonance for very long. But I think the burqa ban  
>> has given
>> a global visibility to the issue of integration in France," she  
>> says. "We
>> definitely can't keep closing off and putting groups in boxes, always
>> reducing them to the same old questions about religion or urban  
>> violence.
>> Education levels are better and we can't have the old Manichean  
>> discourse
>> any more."
>> She adds: "Liberty, equality, fraternity, that's a republican  
>> principle, but
>> in reality the issue of minorities in French society hasn't really  
>> evolved
>> in half a century. The outsiders in France are still the poor, the  
>> Arabs,
>> black and of course, the Roma."
>> The Princess won't say what her own roots are. She simply says she  
>> sees her
>> work as a kind of "cartography of crime" a mapping out of the  
>> underbelly of
>> the city where "I bring inside everything that's been excreted out."
>> And yet her graffiti is particularly French in its anti-consumerism  
>> and
>> ad-busting stance. For her, painting a veil on adverts works visually
>> because the two are "dogmas that can be questioned". She feels  
>> young women
>> wearing the hijab who were once stigmatised by French institutions  
>> are now
>> being targeted for their purchasing power, the "perfect customers" in
>> France's increasingly consumerist society.
>> Her next spree will focus on her favourite target brand, H&M. After  
>> all, its
>> ad campaigns are plastered all over the Paris metro. She argues  
>> that the
>> brand "democratised" fashion at low prices, women in hijab often  
>> shop there,
>> and inking out H&M models is the perfect act of confrontation: "It's
>> visually very striking because [the brand's] images are  
>> ideologically very
>> present in the urban landscape."
>> So these blacked-out niqabs seem to represent everything but  
>> religion. "Am I
>> religious?" she asks, hesitating. "The spiritual interests me, but  
>> that's
>> personal, I don't think it bears on my work. Religion interests me,  
>> Muslims
>> interest me and the impact they can have, artistically,  
>> aesthetically, in
>> the codes that are all around us, particularly in fashion," she  
>> muses.
>> And with that, the graffiti performance artist scuttles off, kit- 
>> bag over
>> her shoulder, to change out of her bizarre disguise and into her own
>> everyday fashion and wander off above ground into the daylight.
>> guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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> -- 
> http://indersalim.livejournal.com
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Dr. Britta Ohm

Institute of Social Anthropology
University of Bern
Laenggassstr. 49a
3012 Bern
+41-(0)31-631 8995 (main office)
+41-(0)31-631 5373 (direct line)
britta.ohm at anthro.unibe.ch

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ohm at zedat.fu-berlin.de

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