I wish to thank the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation for its financial support, making this project a reality. I wish to also thank every participant of this project for their support and help, as this project would have not been possible without volunteering their help and consent. I am forever grateful.
72 Virgins is an installation consisting of 72 paintings of people who I know personally. All participants are people who identify as female, provided me with a photograph of themselves taken from their cell phones. The photographs are expressionless self-portraits while looking directly at the camera. In the paintings, all exposed skin are censored with a sharpie marker and revealed again by dissolving the marks with alcohol.
I am referencing false beliefs from some Islamic cultural perspective. The first being the false religious belief known as the "72 Virgins." It is believed in some Islamic societies that heterosexual men who do not fornicate before marriage will be granted 72 virgin women as a reward in heaven at their time of death. This belief is not written in the Islamic holy book, the Quran, though it became accepted as verse and perpetuated. In the more extreme patriarchal religious cultures, it is used to justify certain agendas such as the banning of homosexuality and further influencing the systematic oppression of women.
The second reference is extreme censorship in the Middle East. Prioritizing a representational style of painting from my education allowed me to effectively communicate my experiences growing up in the Middle East. I am Egyptian, though during my adolescence and early adulthood, I lived in Saudi Arabia. Censorship laws are prevalent within Saudi culture due to strict religious beliefs. Products distributed with designs containing what is considered "sensitive" images- such as what is found on magazines, compact discs, cassettes and VHS covers, feminine products- are subject to alterations through Photoshop, though, when I was younger, this was done with black Sharpie markers. Much of the censorship targets what is considered to be indecent depictions of women, covering any exposed skin, despite most images not relating to sexuality.
Through curiosity and experimentation, I discovered that the marker covering the content in my various media sources was removable with alcohol. Later in life, I learned that censoring was based on misconceptions within the culture or done to suit a political agenda of a ruling monarch through imposed Islamic beliefs. This is a patriarchal society. The significance of this project to me is that it is referencing personal experiences and memories of my upbringing.
This project is significant for its intent to bring attention to misconceptions within societies. By drawing a comparison between Western oil painting and flawed Islamic belief, I am confronting viewers with the similarities of misconceptions between both East and West worlds. In this project, I emphasize for viewers how many cultural issues are globally, rather than regionally, perpetuated by masculine patriarchal culture and are further represented in history through the male gaze.
*The artworks are for sale. Please inquire for prices. 30% of the sales will go for donation for good causes. Please feel free to inquire about any of the details.
Artwork will be delivered by mail services. Each painting comes with its frame and a certificate of purchase.
Red Dot under the Artwork indicates that it has been sold/ reserved