Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hijabizing Graffiti

In this week's class, we discussed about cultural resistance and used Banksy's example to showcase cultural resistance. For this particular blog post, I will be analyzing the work of another graffiti artist, Princess Hijab, from the perspective of culture resistance.

So, who is Princess Hijab? Some refer her as the muslim sister version of Banksy while others claim her to be the founder of hijabism movement. Princess Hijab is an anonymous 20-year-old guerilla street artist based in Paris, who began her “noble cause” of attempting to hijabise advertisements in 2006. She does this by using spray paint and a black marker to cover women’s faces and bodies in ads, or by pasting “hijab” over models displayed in posters and billboards in the streets of Paris. However, it is unknown whether she wears a hijab or if she is even a Muslim.

Her profile page on Art Review states that, "Princess Hijab explores notions of space and possible types of representation, contrasting the normative representations of the public sphere with her personal iconoclastic approach […] She is known for her subversive work within the public space and for her “diy” and “grrl” attitude." She had initially started her work as a way of resisting the mainstream and sexist consumerist culture. In other words, the advertising culture is the dominant/ parent culture and the hijabized graffiti art is the subculture. Many people have also associated her art as way of expressing against the hijab ban in France. However, in one of her rare online interviews, she mentions," My work is nothing to do with the veil ban in France. I’ve repeatedly stated: No, that is not my message, neither in the form, nor in the content of my stuff. I started working in 2005 [before the ban was imposed] on top of that.The content of my art is more directly related to our archetypes, to the collective unconsciousness, our intimate reactions, to the closed space of the Metro and the street."

Cultural resistance comprises of 4 forms - content, form, interpretation and activity. The content of the message is aimed to attract people’s attention to what usually is unnoticeable For example, by drawing niqab on billboard models, Princess Hijab has attracted the world’s attention to the wall. Secondly, for this case, street art is the means (the medium) for culture resistance. According to her," Street art is how I build my universe, giving form to my imaginary representations. Paris - the city, the identities, fashion and society- it offers me nearly inexhaustible inspiration. It nourishes my urban expression". The interpretation part is related to the society and how they interpret the modern mainstream and consumerist culture. Activity refers to the art of graffiti, in this case, the black spray paint symbolizing the veil on poster models that attracts the attention towards those ads.

At the beginning, her art received negative reactions in the public. But now, however, Prince Hijab's guerrilla street art has gained widespread popularity and has been featured at several art exhibitions, including one in Norway recently.

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