What's Behind the Veil? Yemeni Artist Boushra Almutawakel Hits the Point

Published August 16th, 2021 - 10:42 GMT
Art by Yemeni artist Boushra Almutawakel, ”What if?”
Art by Yemeni artist Boushra Almutawakel, ”What if?” (Instagram)
Yemeni Artist, mother, Feminist, Passionate about justice, and passionate about everything in Yemen.
By Ewelina Lepionko

Today, the topic of women's rights around the world returns. Women in every country face many difficulties. They face violence, discrimination, and injustice every day of their lives. Living in a male-dominated world has never been easy. Despite this, women do not give up. They are not afraid to unite and fight for a better future for their daughters. But with all the strides we've made, women’s rights are still suppressed.

Boushra Almutawakel, the first-ever recognized female photographer of Yemen, remains distinct for being the first, but also for daring to voice the cultural and religious controversies prevailing in her country through her talent.

When Boushra sees that her work conjures up strong feelings and provokes engagement, discussion, and debate, she feels she has succeeded. 

Born in Sana’a, Yemen, in 1969, Boushra Y. Almutawakel studied in the USA and Yemen. It was during her time as a student, that she became interested in photography.

On her return to Yemen in 1994 she continued developing her photographic work, doing freelance photography, and participating in many group exhibitions. In 1998, Boushra became a full-time photographer, and some of her clients have included the United Nations, CARE International, the Royal Netherlands Embassy. Her work has been acquired by the British Museum in London, The Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Barjeel Foundation, as well as by other well-known collectors.

Photography is a release for me, particularly when it comes to issues about injustice or things that are just plain wrong. 
Boushra Almutawakel

The photographer has been working for many years. However, recent developments in the world, especially in Afghanistan, make each of her projects surprisingly timely.

Her photographs question the place of gender in a more subtle, often playful, way by challenging people’s expectations. The artist often talks about women's rights and comments on their reality controlled by men. 

In "What If" she challenges the norms of society by picturing men in a veil instead of women. This idea was immensely popular with females but attracted great criticism from men. 

Finding the veiling of Muslim women to be a controversial issue, and also considering the diverse opinions it attracted, Boushra wanted to project the various facets of Hijab through her art. 

Women and girls in many countries as well in Yemen are treated as if they don't exist, except to serve their husbands, in-laws, and children – treated as if they are nothing. The famous photo series “Mother, Daughter, Doll” gradually veils a woman, a girl, and her doll until they literally disappear. 

In her hijab series, she takes the viewer on a visual journey through the different nuances of what it means to be veiled.

And then I saw an increase in the layers of black clothing and veils: an abaya, then a head covering, then a skirt over the head that would cover three-quarters of the upper body, then a niqab, and a sheer veil over the niqab and eyes, and to top it off they also wear gloves. Every part of the woman is covered.

The images on the veil are symbolic of women and girls having no rights. Those are stories of girls and women being deprived of play, education, and childhood by being married off at such young age, raped. 

Women and girls should have the same opportunities as men and boys. Girls and women should be equally appreciated for being of the female gender – and be empowered, instead of being put down, because of it. 

© 2000 - 2022 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

You may also like


Sign up to our newsletter for exclusive updates and enhanced content