Can My Art Do Me Justice? A Feminist Reading of Hend Al-Mansour’s Works of Art


Many outsiders of Saudi society have misconceptions of that culture, especially when it comes to issues of women, gender roles and expectations. Due to unfair representation of women in Western media, many would assume that Islam is a patriarchal religion that oppresses women. The ideology of gender roles and expectations that is represented in Hend al-Mansour's imagery was built upon some societal fallacies: cultural hierarchy of male over female (namely their bodies), and over the confusion between religion and cultural traditions. In particular, this paper looks at one specific work of art, in which this Saudi artist portrays herself in a full-figured representation. In this paper, I argue that al-Mansour, in "Habiba's Chamber," provocatively confronts cultural taboos concerning the female body and its sexuality. In a way, she challenges these fallacies through utilizing the element of shock in her works of art. Even though she celebrates Islamic designs, she fearlessly confronts her audiences with unexpected imagery that might be offensive to some due to nudity. In al-Manour's artwork, she visually seeks justice through the eyes of her audiences. By addressing sensitive cultural/religious controversies such as the issue of hijab/veiling in public, Islamic sectarianism, male chaperon, women's reputation, and self-image. Later on, the paper expands on the notion of self-portraiture in contemporary Islamic art, and how Saudi female artists are challenging cultural norms of representing the female body in public. "Habiba's Chamber" could be one way to create change, a positive kind of change: Muslim women are seeking justice though art.

Author Information
Lina M. Kattan, King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia

Paper Information
Conference: IICAHDubai2016
Stream: Arts - Arts Theory and Criticism

This paper is part of the IICAHDubai2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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