I took the opportunity to venture into DC on a hot, sweltering day last month (as opposed to the hot sweltering days of this month…whew!) to see an exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  Entitled “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” it was an interesting and thought-provoking exhibit.  There were several that substantially caught my eye, but one in particular made me think about this blog.

I don’t typically invite a reader into the blog itself, but in this case I want to.  I want you to look at the picture, and decide what you see and what you think before reading further.



I can wait.  Take your time and look at it.  What is your reaction to it?  What do you think of her, about what she’s saying?

I sat on the divan in the exhibit hall and thought about it, thought about what the photographer wanted to say, thought of the different ways the picture could be interpreted, the different ways of seeing it.


She is desecrating the American flag by using it as her head covering, treating the symbol of our country like a piece of clothing.  It shows the disregard she has for America, the contempt with which the Muslims view us.  To them it is nothing more than a scrap of fabric that they are using to repress and oppress their own people while thumbing their nose at the US at the same time.


She wears the flag as hajib to honor the flag, to show her love for her new country that allows her to express her faith.  A country that allows her to wear a hajib or not, to not be forced into a bur qua and silenced. She wears it to grant it great honor as a piece of her faith that is now linked to her new country.


There is a wonderful contrast in color and brightness between the dark background and the colorfully highlighted complexion of the girl.  The drape of the cloth emphasizes that color as well as the shifting the shape of her face and making it more angular.


Which did you see?

It’s interesting because we frequently see what either we want to see, or what we expect to see.  If you  see animus with a type of people, with a different faith, if you have a view of them vs. us, then that is what you see; the first view rings true.  If you see the harmony of people, the acceptance of faiths (or lack there-of), the inclusion of others into a melting pot of integration and connection, then that is what you see; the second view.  You might even view it outside of the political/religious framework, as purely art with texture, composition, color and shading.

Which did you see?  Which can you see now?

I admit I saw the third view first. I saw it as art.  It was then that I realized how many people would view it like the first view, as dishonorable, and how sad I felt for them that such a beautiful woman, such a beautiful shot, should be abused by some that way.  And then it dawned on me that there was yet another way of viewing it, as honoring God and Country in the second view.  Later I learned that my thought process was exactly what the photographer was attempting; it came to me without having read any of the material about the series.  She did a stellar job, given that a left brained engineer saw it and wondered the questions she wanted me to wonder, moved me to see the differences.

I hope they move you, too.



The picture was done by Boushra Almutawakel , a Yemeni, in response to the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: