Violence

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These images are hard-hitting and emotional. They are raw and honest, and reveal the darkest human emotions and turmoils possible. What prompted these people to write such things? What amount of desperation made them confess such horrifying thoughts on the walls of public vicinities? These are the things I wanted to know as I shot these photos.

But after reading Yasmina Khadras, The Swallows of Kabul, I realized how real violence and hopelessness can be, and how present are the evils that can push a person to the point of breaking. The severity of the violence and distrust that is present in this novel is terrifying, and really struck me.

The people in the village of Kabul couldn’t trust anyone, their friends and family were dying all around them, and it is in these times, these times of severe desperation, that people either give up and succumb to the pressures around them, or will do anything to survive; even turn their backs on the people they love.

These photos display the results of when these situations occur, of when violence, distrust, hatred, and most of all, fear, are present in our world. Although this novel is an extreme example, there are numerous pressures that people face every day that cause them to look to death with longing glances. This must stop.

Religious Freedom?

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I drew this mixed media sketch to portray the idea of imprisonment by religion that I found very prevalent in the novel An Egyptian Childhood. I found it so interesting how, in some cultures and societies, how prevalent religion is in their lives. In many ways, I view religion as guidelines to help guide your life, but in this novel, I saw it as something that controls your life.

The main character of this novel, a little boy, goes to school every day, just to memorize the Qur’an. His only source of pride, comes from when he memorizes verses well. Every household tradition, every job worth feeling proud about, every discussion, seems to be centered around Islam.

Living in a country that allows so much personal freedom for my whole life, I couldn’t help but see this religious based lifestyle as oppressing. So, I created this piece to show my take on this novel, and display how someone like me might feel in this culture.

The arabic words denote phrases such as, “Have Faith,” which I used to show what people under this condition would most likely feel or be told to feel.

In all, reading this book and working on this drawing made me realize how much I appreciate my own freedoms and the decisions and options that I am able to have for myself.

Rape

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I wanted to discuss, through this work a very controversial and prominent topic… rape. In the novel Suns of Independence, the protagonist’s wife, Salimata undergoes numerous tragedies such as rape and being robbed and often seems like she has little control over her life.

These injustices really struck me in this novel, and also when after, I watched an episode of the show Vice, a extreme-journalistic approach to numerous global issues. This episode in particular was dealing with Muslim women who had been raped and were trying to seek justice in their communities.

These women, more often than not, were denied justice, were shamed, and were forced to live often within closed vicinity of their rapists… causing them to live in fear and vulnerability.

The elements of this drawing I have done incorporate all of these major issues that women dealing with rape, and not just Muslim women, have to go through. First, the label of being a “liar.” In so many cases, the word of the man is taken over the word of the woman. Women can be seen as “seeking attention,” amongst numerous other labels. The seductive nature of the expression of the woman’s mouth, explicates what women in many cultures are seen as, which is sex objects. Respect for women is lacking throughout numerous cultures. And finally the blood trickling out of her mouth symbolizes the fact that despite everything, we are, at the end of the day, the one’s that must deal with the emotional and physical pain of rape… whether justice is served or not.

Allah

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Perhaps my favorite aspect of Islamic culture is Islamic art, and their mosaics in particular. For this piece I wanted to fuze together the art form of Islamic mosaic and the discussion of the presence of Allah within our society today. For this work I used small pieces of photographs to create a mosaic within the Arabic word for “Allah.”

As the word goes on, the mosaic becomes less compact and more scattered. This signifies the declining faith and presence of the strength in the word “Allah” in society today, especially in America. I believe this is due to the negative stigma that has been thrust upon the ideas of Islam, ever since the turn of the century and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The very thing, God, that first bonded so many people, has now divided nations and caused war, because people are doing terrible things in the name of this God.

I used a red background to represent the violence surrounding the connotation of this word today, due to the terrorist groups that are supposedly “Islamic.” The turquoise-blue that is inside the word itself, I used to represent the peace and serenity that the presence of God is supposed to bring, that being the underlying reason for religion in the first place. Even though something can be surrounded by negative stigmas and stereotypes, the underlying truth can still be very beautiful, and that is what I attempted to capture in this piece.

Defeat by Patriarchy

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“You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”

In the short story entitled “Sultana’s Dream,” the author highlights the issue that women aren’t fighting enough for their own rights. I drew this picture to exemplify the fact that too many women are coming across as hopeless and weak, and giving into their present state. If we want to be taken seriously, then many people believe we must act seriously. And this is exactly the type of situation that the author addresses in Sultana’s Dream; a kind of turned around feminist-empowered future world.

Of course, we must look at the other side of things, and recognize the fact that so many women suffering from oppression are up against so many things: societal traditions, cultural beliefs, social and religious norms, etc. A lot of these things go against the very idea of female empowerment… especially in highly patriarchal societies.

That is why I also wanted to include a sense of beauty in this picture, as well as vulnerability. Although women may feel defeated by the obstacles that they face, that doesn’t mean they are not beautiful, that they don’t have the potential and the right for equality and respect.

Expectations

Expectations

 

Tell me not who to be,

For I am my own person.

Tell me not what is me,

Unless you want my state to worsen.

 

Please don’t tell me that you’re there,

Then turn and walk away.

And please listen and be fair,

When I say you need to stay.

 

Do not break me down,

Then expect me still to stand.

Do not cause a frown,

Then try to hold my hand.

 

Do not lose all hope,

When I’m still holding on.

I know life is a slippery slope,

But you’ll miss me when I’m gone.

 

 

I wrote this poem in reflection to Samina Ali’s novel, Madras on Rainy Days. A major theme in this novel that really resonated with me was the idea of societal and parental expectations, and the amount of control that they can have over a person’s major decisions in life. The conformities that society pushes upon you are often hard to deal with, especially when what you want to do goes against these conformities.

Throughout the novel, Layla, the protagonist, struggles between the two cultures she was brought up in, and ultimately chooses to return to India and go through with an arranged marriage that her parents have set up for her. While this is a very socially normal part of Indian culture, Layla has already broken numerous societal rules in America. She had premarital sex, and is pregnant with the man’s baby. This leads me to the next topic… the expectation of women to be virgins on their wedding day. Not only this, but if they are not, then the father has the right to kill the daughter. This gives women the idea that all they are good for is for their bodies, their “purity” for their husbands, to become good wives and mothers.

But what about their ideas, their own personal freedoms, and their choices? They have none. They are wanted for their bodies; they are seen as objects that need to be “pure” in order to maintain honor within a family. And this, I believe, is wrong. I think every woman is entitled to make the choices that she wants to make, if she is only affecting herself.

Now some people believe that women degrade themselves by sleeping with numerous men, numerous times. I am not necessarily supporting this lifestyle choice, and I do believe it is really important for women to respect themselves. However, if a woman is making that choice purely for herself, and not under the coercion or influence of anyone else, then I believe she has the right to do it.

I wrote this poem in honor of any person that is experiencing pain from trying to conform to others’ expectations, and making decisions based on what other people want for them, rather than what they want to do for themselves. I personally, have had many struggles with falling into the pressures of societal expectations and expectations from my family.

I have given in many times, because ultimately, that seems like your only option. But the couple times that I have said “Screw it.” and gone with what I wanted to do, I have learned the most, and I have grown the most as a person. So take a chance, allow yourself to create your own destiny, and don’t let it be molded by those around you. Yes, it is okay to be guided and to seek guidance from others, but don’t let other people shape your life… it is yours and only yours to live.

Rebellion in Persepolis and the Teenage Realm

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Rebellion in Persepolis and the Teenage Realm

Freedom of expression of oneself is perhaps one of the most important things that a person can be granted. Especially during teenage years, when people are moving from childhood to adulthood, they are trying to figure out how they want to be perceived by the rest of the world, and even how they view themselves. In Persepolis, I recognized this common struggle between following the path that has been laid out for you by those before you, and creating one of your own. Often the latter is a tougher road, paved by rebellion and going against the natural grain of society, and the morals your family has raised you with.

It is through these photographs above that I tried to capture the angst, turmoil, confusion and eventual liberation that comes from the journey of self-discovery and self-creation. The graffiti pictures I think best represent the beauty that can be found in destruction. The writing signifies the obsession with things that are considered “taboo” and immoral. There is an inherent human characteristic that makes these things seem more enticing due to the sense of their “off limit-ness.” And in order to create something new, you must first break down what is old, and build upon its remains. The destruction might be ugly, it might not go the way you originally wanted it to but in the end, you can end up creating something beautiful. And that’s what I wanted to capture in these photographs, something that the general public might see as ugly, and vandalism, actually has a sense of beauty. Because there is beauty in the struggle that ultimately yields success.

The picture of the two lights in the dark represents to me, the mysterious and almost seductive nature that night presents to people in times of great distress or confusion. Night is a time when our insecurities and inhibitions are covered by the darkness, and not exposed by the light of day. Psychologically, we become of a different mind during the night. Our creative minds come out, our curious mind. We are eager to push the limits a little more. Those things that during the day seem out of reach, all at once become possible once the sun goes down.

The final two photos represent to me, a young woman discovering her own personal sense of beauty and expression. The intense, provoking gaze, the subtle smile, all create a feeling of personal discovery, a little playfulness, a sense of intimacy. All these things are things that women are often shamed for, in numerous cultures throughout the world. Women aren’t supposed to explicate their beauty, or even really realize it, yet when they do, and celebrate it, I think that’s beautiful.

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

 

October 10, 2014

 

I have found one of the most interesting aspects of studying religion is the question of blind faith. In a scientific era though processes are becoming increasingly more fact based and less on faith alone. In Fadl’s Conference of Books: Chapter 58: The Remembrance, the speaker begins to inquire the priest on the knowledge of which he bases his claims, asking him to support his claims with evidence. When the priest cannot answer many of the questions, it makes the reader realize that many people just accept things as truth, as fact, without any reason for doing so. This “blind faith” is present in not just Islam, but many religions.

 

I then began to wonder, what leads people to having this sense of blind faith? And why do they become so encompassed in it, letting it rule their every decision and thought? After much thinking, I came to the conclusion that people need something to believe in, something to pull them through when they feel like they can’t get themselves through. People feel like they need a reason to exist, and if they put there efforts into religion, they are given that reason.

 

Finally, I thought, well faith is a good thing to have. You must be optimistic and have faith in something in order to find contentment in your life. But to what extent is blind faith good? If we cannot know who we can trust and what we can put our trust into, then is it really a good idea to grasp onto it with such reverence? Is it too much of a chance to take?

 

I don’t have the answers, but I thought I’d do this drawing to explicate the sense of the unknown that goes along when you put your faith into something. You don’t know if your faith is going to be rewarded, or if you are going to be left with nothing. And this can be frightening for many people, but sometimes you have to risk it for the biscuit.

Discrimination

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October 10, 2014

 

In numerous societies, cultures and religions there are stereotypes and prejudices. One of the most prevalent ones that effects half of our world population is the prejudice against women, especially prevalent in highly patriarchal societies. The feminist poetry by Fahmida Riaz really highlights the oppression and stigmas that are thrust upon women, especially in Muslim cultures. Her poem “She Is a Woman Impure” really exemplified how women are trapped by society, and much of their beauty is shamed instead of celebrated.

 

She is a woman impure

Imprisoned by her flowing blood

In a cycle of months and years.

Consumed by her fiery lust,

In search of her own desire,

This mistress of the devil…

 

In the heat of her simmering passion

Her breasts have ripped

By each thorn on the wayside

Every membrane of her body ripped.

No veil of shame conceals her body

No trace it bears of sanctity.

 

I thought that this poem really embodies the constricting nature of society in regards to women. Many women feel shamed for their bodies, and for choosing to do what they want with their bodies. Yet, similar actions with men, although not always, are often dismissed. This creates the role of women as a subordinate.

 

I decided to make these drawings to show how disheartening it is when women are viewed simply as objects. When their worth is stripped away from them, it’s a painful thing to see. Within the bigger picture of female discrimination I included a representation of other major prejudices as well: religion, age, race and gender discrimination are all included.

 

Something that I have thought about a lot more since taking this class is the judgments we make based solely on appearances. Take this Muslim woman, for example. The scarf wrapped around her head is representative of her religion and seeing this, people automatically make assumptions. That she is weak, that she has no power… all based on generalizations of a patriarchal society. I thought that it was so interesting when we talked in class about the head scarves, and how many women wear them as an expression of liberation, and how many women wear them by choice instead of force. In this way, this expression of faith is beautiful and should not be discriminated upon.

 

The third picture depicts discrimination against race. An age old fight against the difference in skin tone. This is one that we’ve made great leaps with, but is still present.

 

The second picture depicts a young girl, innocent and yet still distraught, because she is quickly being exposed to the cruelties and injustices of the world. She is young; her thoughts opinions aren’t seen as valuable to the world yet. She has little influence on those around her. I think that this picture and the fourth one go hand in hand. The fourth picture represents the effects that societies expectations have on young girls when they grow into young women. Society expects women to follow the so-called social norms. They must follow certain guidelines to be perceived as beautiful. Be thin, be athletic, be polite, be feminine and graceful. All are things that young girls hear as they grow up. This girl in the fourth picture is struggling to keep up with what society is telling her to do in order to be beautiful, and that’s not beautiful.

 

Through these dark images, I hope to invoke a sense of awakening, the need for change and ultimately, the need for equality between ever race, sex, gender and religion.

Hopelessness

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October 10, 2014

 

Hopelessness is a universal emotion. At some point or another, we’re all going to feel like we have nothing substantial to turn to, nothing to rely on. These moments will make us question what we put our faith into, if anything at all. It will leave us contemplating, and unsure of where to go next. I thought this feeling of complete loss and isolation was best depicted in the poem “The Complaint,” especially in the following lines:

 

Why must I forever suffer loss,

Oblivious to gain,

Why think not upon the morrow,

Drowned in grief for yesterday?

Why must I attentive heed the

Nightingale’s lament of pain?

Fellow-bard, am I a rose, condemned

To silence all the way?…

 

See, the stream of blood is pouring

From our griefs, so long suppressed;

Hark, the cry of pain is throbbing in

Our dagger-riven breast

 

This part really hit home for me. The uncertainty, the doubt in this poem, these emotions are all so real to so many of us. I sought to capture this overwhelming feeling of contemplation and emotional loss in a photograph. After traversing Cambridge and Boston shooting photos of every interesting person I saw, I was lucky enough to capture these fleeting moments in photographs. These photos really inflicted a lot of pain on me when I saw them, and made me realize that, regardless of religion or background, every single one of us has these moments. Where we question everything, when we wonder what our purpose is, or if we are necessary in this huge system of life. Call it an existential crisis, or call it an emotional breakdown, we all know how this feels.

 

For me, I shot the security guard really quickly, from far away, on my way into the yard. I did it impulsively, as nothing really struck me as interesting about him. However when I uploaded the pictures onto my computer, his expressions completely blew me away. I thought it was such a powerful image. Being a security guard, especially at Harvard, his whole image embodies security and prestige, something concrete. Yet his expression is the complete opposite of secure. He seems lost, lost in thought and lost in himself.

 

The homeless man, I saw in Boston. They are all over the place, but this one was the only one I saw that didn’t have a collection jar in front of him. It was like he didn’t even care any more, he wasn’t even attempting to find a way to survive, or maybe he was tired of depending on other people for survival. I think that is the most important message that these pictures gave me, the idea that maybe the key to contentment and happiness is to be able to trust and have faith in yourself. At this moment, he can’t depend on himself. He doesn’t possess the basic necessities that we all deserve, and who does he have to blame for that? I don’t have the answers, but nevertheless, I thought it was an interesting idea. The idea that ultimately we are the only things that we can control. We have no power over the actions of God, or of other people. So what can we really have faith in?

 

Just trying to creatively respond to life.