Colliding worlds in fashion photo-shoot stir controversy in Amman
Photos of Jordanian filmmaker Widad Shafakoj modelling clothes against the background of a poor neighbourhood in Amman stirred controversy, with some describing it as "exploiting the poor" and others as "creative".
Behind the photo shoot, however, lies a story of urban activism against classism in Jordanian society, says Shafakoj,
“Classism is our biggest problem in Jordan,” said Shafakoj.
The photos, which were published by the online magazine My.Kali last week along with an interview about Shafakoj’s work, show the filmmaker posing with expensive clothes against demolished buildings, sprayed with names of international expensive designer labels in the poor part of Amman's Abdoun area, better known as Wadi Abdoun.
"Just a few minutes away from this poor and marginalised community, there is another Abdoun. This is an example of classism," said Shafakoj in a telephone interview with The Jordan Times, in reference to the upscale Amman neighbourhood, home to luxurious villas and expensive shops.
“Months ago, residents of Wadi Abdoun were protesting against the government’s decision to evict them from their homes for little compensation,” said Dima Maurice, a member of Project: Manifesto, a group of young Jordanian architects promoting urban activism.
The reason they were being evicted was because commercial buildings were going to be built in the area, according to Maurice.
“This poor Abdoun will be replaced by another rich Abdoun. We were provoked,” Maurice told The Jordan Times.
In protest against the plans, a group of artists collaborated with Project: Manifesto in a project known as “Label Protest”, according to Shafakoj.
“We did not spray the walls of people’s homes. We sprayed the walls of demolished and abandoned buildings,” she noted.
Khalid Abdel Hadi, editor of My.Kali magazine, said the move aimed at initiating dialogue about poverty and class-division in Jordan. "We want our society to start talking about this huge gap between the rich and the poor. Just reading comments on social media sites, between people for and against, we think we succeeded," Abdel Hadi told The Jordan Times.
The photos, according to Abdel Hadi, tell the story of a girl from rich Abdoun, who moves to poor Abdoun, following recent fuel-price hikes, as she no longer could afford to continue leading the same expensive lifestyle.
“When this rich girl moved to the poor neighbourhood, she had to live in a home with Dior’s logo, or buy a gas cylinder that has the name Chanel on it,” he said.
“This is an attempt to show the irony of the statements made by the government when they said that lifting fuel subsidies would not affect the poor, but other segments of society,” he added.
The government lifted fuel subsidies last November and replaced them with a cash support system, under which each individual from households that consist of six members or less, and whose income is less than JD800 a month or JD10,000 a year, is entitled to JD70 annually to compensate for the price increases.
Abdel Hadi noted that clothes featured in the photos “were borrowed from a local shop in Abdoun, but do not market any of the designers”.
By Areej Abuqudairi