- Written by Sarah
M.I.A has never been an artist who worries about her public image. But unlike other “controversial” contemporary female artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus - whose meat dresses, girl-kissing and sexualized racism are merely attention-seeking stunts aimed to further a limelight persona - M.I.A lands in the spotlight because her sense of self and her sensibility are so adverse to traditional American media narratives, and she has always refused to play nice or compromise her beliefs to please such audiences.
She confronts this head-on in Matangi, her fourth full-length studio album, which came out at the beginning of November. No apologies here, as Maya takes on the reaction to her 2012 SuperBowl performance (“Let you into SuperBowl/you tried to steal Madonna’s crown” she says in Boom Skit) where she flipped the bird on live tv and was subsequently sued for $1.5 million by the NFL. At one point, M.I.A said that her middle finger was a symbol of devotion to Matangi, the Hindu goddess from whom this album takes its name. But M.I.A knows that what makes her unpalatable to many Americans is not her actions, but who they came from.
Beginning, middle, and ending screenshots from 2 performance pieces I did. In these pieces, each around 7 minutes in length, I reenact beauty rituals I practiced as a brown teenager who just wanted to be white.
Patricia Ann Alvarado
We live in a world where it’s more acceptable to dislike yourself and openly say “I am ugly” rather than actually appreciate yourself and openly say “I am attractive” because how dare you feel good in your skin and say it out loud, what an awful human being you are, you can’t walk around thinking you’re good, you piece of shit.
[Hana] Meryem Meg’s work resonated with me the moment I saw it. Representations of the Middle East, Muslim world and even the South Asian Subcontinent, still to this day remain held by the Colonial Orientalist gaze that attempted to fix them centuries ago. Meryem speaks to us more about how she attempts to subvert the gaze and resist through a different type of power in looking.
Ways of seeing was a project I undertook to allow myself to visually and theoretically explore and communicate the ways in which body language was used to objectify the Woman through colonial Orientalist Painting. Looking at visual ways of hiding and revealing through mark making.
I use creativity as a tool to outline and direct or redirect the gaze, offering a different outlook or visual commentary on some of the most defining works, which sprung in 18-19th C Europe. It is important for me to combat and try to portray a much more justified and realistic representation of the ‘oriental woman’ through my own reality.
I want to bring light and also celebrate the complexity and many different facets of the oriental woman; challenging stereotypes, which were formed through Orientalism and Orientalist painters, continuing to carry these representations through popular culture. I want to underline the reality that is hidden, and contribute to demolishing all idea’s that the oriental women is nothing more than a passive, exotic object of desire, a salve to the avidity of men and unable to have any form of intellectual integrity.
Learning from this I hope to expand the project which started as a personal expression I felt I needed to get out of my system, to a much more community orientated project. I love a statement made by Junot Diaz which goes to say, ” You know how vampires have no reflection in the mirror? If you want to make a human being a monster, Deny them at a cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
It is extremely crucial to have the ability to represent and communicate self. As a Woman of Muslim African / European background I feel like my work should strive towards that and facilitate a space of debate and deliberation. Whether it addresses the emancipation of the woman within her own “community”, or through a western white dominated lens.
Meryem is a 23 year old Algerian, Bulgarian visual artist based in London. Raised between France and the UK. Her inspiration stems from a love for all ethnical art merged with her urban reality, combining through a passion for print making, bespoke typography and a strategic use of vivid colour combinations.
Graduated with a BA in Graphic design from LCA and most recently with an MA from the University of Arts London. Her passion for race / gender and identity have continually surfaced within her design and artistic practice. Continually striving to celebrate the woman through her art.
Black feminists coined the phrase “the personal is political” (no matter what Wikipedia tells you a white women DID NOT coin that phrase) and indeed taking selfies is a personal act deeply rooted in the radical politics of self-love. If someone can’t see that that, it simply means that their mainstream pretty, thin, & skin privilege is getting in the way of that.
OUT NOW: OOMK Zine #2
Issue 2 of One of my Kind (OOMK) is now available to buy for £5 at the OOMK Magpile shop for UK and international orders. Issue 2 is 114 pages full colour and contains contributions from over 40 female emerging and established artists and writers.
About: One of my Kind is a biannual small press publication about art, activism, feminism and spirituality. While OOMK shares and explores the work of women from a diverse range of background it is particularly inclusive of Muslim women.
Issue 2 is a celebration of PRINT and is packed with interviews, articles, art, photography, illustration and lots more.
Featuring: Guerrilla Girls, Mahwish Chishty, Fatema Zehra, Aurella Yussuf, Hana Riaz, Sara Salem, See Red, Sabba Khan, Aya Haidar, Houria Niati, Rosie Martin, Nasreen Raja, Christine Rosch, Alana Questell, Sofia Niazi, Mehwish Iqbal, Meryem Meg, Amy Lambert, Leila Abdul Razzaq, Rose Nordin, Daksheeta Pattni, Emily Evans, Peter Willis, Alice Lindsay, Florence Shaw, Soraya Syed, Aleesha Nandhra, Heiba Lamara, Hannah Habibi Hopkin, Rachael Hopkin, Hadeel Eltayeb, Abbas Zahedi, Farah Elahi, Christine Bjerke, Patrick Gallagher, Fuad Ali, Rabiah Abdulla, Asako Taki.
To find out more or to request a copy for press/reviews please visit www.oomk.net
As we have shown, the policing of language is a fake-out, an excuse for preventing marginalized groups from accessing power, property, and influence. It ain’t ever really about ‘your verbs agreeing’ or ‘enunciating the ends of your words.’ Because of the strong links between language and identity, linguistic discrimination is often nothing more than racial and ethnic discrimination by proxy.
Building a Nest for Womanhood, 2013
My final response to my body hair section, creating using body hair of all kinds, synthetic flowers, rose petals, a razor and objects from my past and possible future. Here I have used two weeks worth of body hair from the women of my family, pulled from hairbrushes and razors alike, to create a nest of womanhood. For me, I see hair as a very large symbol of age; from being born mine has been watched growing (first curls cut and kept safe), it has been plaited with multicoloured bobbles by my mothers delight and dyed with multicolours dyes to my mothers despair. i have been taught that being a woman means growing hair in places it never grew before, but it also means carefully removing every last one.
I have come to expect that unless I keep myself prim and proper, shaved and shiny, that I will not get a kiss, never mind a wedding ring or a baby or a family home. And when I’m old, I will consider my beauty lost as each strand falls out of place, along with my teeth (just like they did when I was ten). Hair stands as a symbol for how much we have grown, our own personal styles, our own preferences and often an indication for whether you’re spending time with and showing guarded areas to the right people. Here I have created my own birds mothering nest family home out my mothers, my sisters, my grans and my own hair, filling it with objects symbolising the importance of body hair; a wedding ring, a babies bangle, a newborn hospital bracelet, fallen teeth and my own razor. Building a nest ready for womanhood, strand by strand.
one of the worst things about becoming educated on social issues is when people are like ‘you used to have a sense of humor’
no i used to have internalized prejudices which i’ve worked really hard to overcome and i realize now that your jokes are shitty