This exhibition is part of our September theme, which focuses on women’s rights.
Through May – July this year the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Casula NSW hosted a ground breaking visual arts exhibition that was the outcome of their national initiative, the Australian Muslim Women’s Art Project.
The Australian Women’s Art Project was an intensive process that included two artist laboratories in 2011 and independent community cultural engagement projects coordinated by the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.
The following images have generously been provided by the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, including artists statements’ for each of the works.
This drawer houses lace and patterns from different parts of the world; there is lace from Europe and Turkey, Islamic floral henna pattern on the hand from Morocco, and a Welsh love spoon ornament on the drawer handle. All these objects from different backgrounds are saturated in the ochre colour of the Australian landscape. The artist’s work remembers the women’s skilful work and perseverance in establishing a home for a new beginning. Saba from Pakistan has inspired the process of this work through her own experience.
Zaharah spoke very fondly about the generosity of the sun and how strings connect everything. The warm strings from the sun nurture the life on the ground from the roots to the leaves and up to the fruit. Her generosity of spirit was very engaging and inspiring for the artist. The artist learned that we need to realise this by looking deep into substances around us. The magnifying glass inside the sun shape highlights the love of looking deeper to see what lies beneath.
Translation of Arabic inside the artwork: The only conqueror is God
Translation of Arabic on the artwork’s handle: Welcome
Welcome to another story from the land of Iraq! When Fetooh from Iraq came to the workshop, the artist was all ears. She wanted to know what else has happened in the name of the “good vs evil” war in her country and how the American led war succeeded in destroying the livelihood of innocent people and the very fabric of Arab and Muslim homelands. Fetooh spoke about the looting of her own home and the continuous fear that resides over the whole city of Baghdad. But to her surprise while looking through her dismantled home, she found a small rug that her grandfather has given her as a gift. Rugs usually are part of the fabric of households; the artist used the rug to speak about this hole that the war has left behind in history.
The drawer/shrine cherishes a cycle of life that is sustained by women back home in Bangladesh for Nasreen R. This cycle begins from the heart as it trickles through the earthen jars of water and flourishes in a shape of earthen roses. The artist learned from this multi-layered story that women are the backbone of family life. They look after their children, maintain their homes and are continuously having to carry jars of water.
Patience and endurance are the key to the ultimate reward through faith. The pomegranate seeds are the most sacred fruit (stated in the Koran and the Bible) in a shape of prayer beads – this summarised for the artist the beauty that Alliya expressed so passionately during the workshop. We need to be grateful and thankful of all the provisions that God has created around us.
“When we came to Australia, we brought nothing with us from Iran, but Rumi was always in our thoughts…” Sara expressed this passionately through her work and discussions. The feather will guide you to a place of a whirling dervish as it takes you through the cathartic journey of writing. In the heart of this drawer a pen rests inside an ink stone in shape of a heart. This heart lies inside the meridian ring … the artist’s work remembers the great poet, the messenger of love … Rumi. His message of unlimited tolerance continues to transcend all borders.
This shrine/drawer is an expression of love and yearning for home and family. It has shared this experience of a void with the artist. Every time she leaves her family back home she feels her heart hurting as she sees everyone standing in the distance behind. When Nasreen spoke about missing her mother back in India, the artist couldn’t resist the temptation to make this work as a tribute to her own mother who passed away years ago in Morocco.
The artist placed cinnamon sticks underneath the lace. This always reminds her of her mother’s hugs.
As a diptych, the print highlights the evolution of personality in a female child. The work represents notion of community building as well as a serious underlying message through symbolism of a jester and body limbs, raising the question of how a positive or a negative environment could affect the physical and psychological state of a child.
The colour blue, is a representation of nature; sea and the sky. The blue boats symbolize travel and the endlessness of the horizon, at times presenting danger and at the same time optimism and adventure. The cubical form shows the strength and solidity that has made Australia a leader in the world through human migration over centuries.
This installation poses questions to those in power; how methodological nationalism impacts a free thinking cosmopolitan society. A structured
migration is just like consumerism, it reduces people to commodities and room for interconnectivity and social communication is compromised. People who migrate to a new culture are presented with new challenges, such as learning new languages, economic, administrative and legal difficulties, loss of fundamental cultural and psychological identification (such as leaving family and friends behind, their home, city and familiar places in search of a better life). The paper boats carry multiple meanings; a single unit is susceptible to wear and tear but collectively they demonstrate unity, strength, resilience and growth.
The sacred play of opposites and of contradiction as it unfolds within subjective experience, agitation becomes catharsis. The lie of “identity” is exposed and absorbed into one pulsing awareness ‘La illaha illallah’, there is no reality but the Reality. This video installation uses recordings from a performance enacted over ten hours in the artist’s clothes cupboard.
This work plays on the Arab obsession with relationship status. The marriage finger is ripped away, symbolising the lack of being complete, especially after divorce. Marriage is seen as the key to achieving a higher spiritual level.
Special thanks to Muslim women not defined by their relationship status.