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Paris’ veiled threat-Princess Hijab

Princess Hijab is Paris’s most elusive street artist. Striking at night with dripping black paint s/he slaps black Muslim veils on the half-naked airbrushed women – and men – of the metro’s fashion adverts. Her/his guerrilla niqab art has been exhibited from New York to Vienna, sparking debates about feminism and fundamentalism – yet her/his identity remains a mystery. S/he dons spandex tights, shorts and a hoodie, a long black wig totally obscuring her face, one thing is clear. S/he won’t say if s/he’s a Muslim and may not be a woman.

 

 

Princess_HijabWho is s/he? A French Muslim woman in hijab raging at the system, rare thing on Paris’s male-dominated graffiti scene? Is s/he a religious fundamentalist making a point about female flesh? But s/he likes to leaves a witty smattering of buttock cheeks and midriff on display. If s/he’s a leftwing feminist making a point about the exploitation of women, it’s odd that s/he always flees the scene of her crimes. Is s/he Muslim?

For Princess Hijab real identity is of no importance, but the veil has many hidden meanings: it can be as profane as it is sacred, consumerist and sanctimonious, from Arabic Gothicism to the condition of man. The interpretations are numerous and of course carries great symbolism on race, sexuality and real and imagined geography.

 

 

princess hijab 3Princess Hijab sees her/himself as part of a new “graffiti of minorities” reclaiming the streets. “If it was only about the burqa ban, my work wouldn’t have a resonance for very long. But I think the burqa ban has given a global visibility to the issue of integration in France,” she says. “We definitely can’t keep closing off and putting groups in boxes, always reducing them to the same old questions about religion or urban violence. Education levels are better and we can’t have the old Manichean discourse anymore.”

The hijab debates first erupted in 1989 when three high-school girls were suspended after they refused to remove their Islamic headscarves at a school in a suburb of Paris. Years of controversy led to former President Jacques Chirac passing a bill in 2004 banning “religious symbols” in schools on the grounds that they clashed with France’s cherished notions of secularization. The previous president Nicolas Sarkozy upheld the ban on burqas and headscarves in public spaces, stating, “the burqa is not a religious symbol, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic. We cannot accept women in cages, amputated of all dignity, on French soil.”

Princess Hijab sees her/his work as a “cartography of crime” a mapping out of the underbelly of the city where “I bring inside everything that’s been excreted out.”

Princess Hijab argues that the human right of expression has been displaced by publicists, advertisers, and the machinery of capitalist, commodified culture, and her/his work explores how something as intimate as the human body has become as distant as a message from your corporate sponsor. Her/his guerrilla art is “innocent and criminal, ancient and dystopian, intimate and political. Princess Hijab chose the veil because it does what art should do: it challenges, it frightens, and it re-imagines. Also guerrilla art presents a mystery and an impishness consistently missing from serious discourses on the hijab.” The terms “hijabizing” or “hijabism” continue to define his/her work. Could hijabizing ads could be a way to ‘take back’ women’s rights to their bodies?

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If it turns out that Princess Hijab is not a Muslim it would lend credibility to the idea that the dislike of being exposed to ‘visual aggression’ is not necessarily rooted in religious belief.


7 Comments

  1. wishbone2014 says:

    I am not sure what motivates Princess Hajib, but I think that if she is rebelling against the procrustean mold the corporate empire forces women into, she may have a valid point.

    • No one is sure what gender she is, what she’s targeting specifically or what religion she follows, but I like that she is rattling France’s old feathers; their republican values which exclude others

  2. rhettlowe says:

    Very interesting. Usually, the whole point of protest art is to call attention to an issue by making a bold and clear statement. Princess Hijab’s motivation is a mystery. If s/he is a Muslim, it is unlikely that s/he is a fundamentalist offended by immodesty (as you noted in your observation, much flesh is left uncovered). Moreover, the statement about not “closing off and putting groups [i.e. Muslims] in boxes” and wanting to call attention to integration in France makes it sound unlikely that s/he is a secularist making a criticism about the treatment of women in Islamic cultures. I suppose we will have to wait until s/he decides to reveal more (so to speak) about his/her motivations…or until s/he is arrested for “defacing” corporatist-consumer propaganda. On the other hand, if this is art, then the beholder can take away a wholly different message from the one s/he may have intended. The artist is not all powerful; sometimes the work acquires an unintended (by the creator) and alternative significance.

    Est-ce que les francais sont vraiment indignes? Sont-ils convaincus que cet ariste est une menace? MDR! [mort de rire]

  3. Husseini says:

    What It’s Like to Be an Atheist in Palestine

    Waleed Al Husseini spent 10 months in Palestinian prison for being an atheist blogger. He asks why non-believers like himself are abandoned by the world.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/08/what-it-s-like-to-be-an-atheist-in-palestine.html

    • Wow! As pro Palestinian one can be in the zionist war, it never ceases to amaze me how monotheistic religions persecute non believers for thinking of ‘self’ or humanity first then religion after. Honesty, goodness, questioning are all healthy aspects of the humane. And yes, women always suffer when such religions adhere to the book. Your voice will stand with those who suffer. In the USA and in France, difference isn’t ‘cool’ always, but i dare say that in the USA no matter what, we can speak, especially through our writing. Anything politically correct is good, which is still way more than any society allows. It’s good to have affirmative action! Stay safe. To think differently is to be alone. You have to live with that, as all of us who speak either for ourselves or for voiceless others.

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