Carnage of the Orientalist Vision: An imaginary reality in contemporary photojournalism. It is common for award-winning images from the Arab world to carry a similar feel to that of the 19th-century Orientalist paintings, where the Orient is represented as mystical, faraway lands. Often these images portray a region with picturesque yet dramatic scenery. A region plagued by taboos, where veils and mashrabiyas hide a domestic sphere destined to remain misunderstood. An indirect visual language struggles to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Many paintings created by European artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries depict Arab women as being exotic belly dancers in palaces and harems. In reality, these images were merely Orientalist fantasies of Western colonisers who could not gain access to the private spaces of Arab women. Sadly, this stereotype continues to dominate one way in which the Arab world is represented. Exotic, backward, uncivilised and dangerous. On the other hand, the lack of access to the Arab domestic sphere has also fuelled the victimisation of Arab women, who are often represented as inferior. They are shown to be the weak victims of Arab culture, oppressed by patriarchal Arab men and in desperate need of Western intervention. This body work does not intend to claim that the Arab region does not suffer from gender-related issues and inequalities, but to stress the importance of differentiating between works that reflect reality, and bias representations which limit our understanding of the region. Inspired by Edward Said's book Orientalism, “Not Your Harem” aims to recreate the scenes in which women are commonly misrepresented and instead show them within their domestic sphere, going about their day to day activities.
© Samar Hazboun