Paper, silk, cotton piping.
PRESS RELEASE: FROM "Mawasah"
"The exhibition takes its title from the Arabic word mwasah, loosely translating as “comforting someone in a period of mourning.” This series of works was kindled by the recent loss of a close friend. His funeral was the artist’s first experience of a traditional Muslim service, and she was struck by its silence, swiftness, and separation of mourners by gender. Its use of material, too, made a deep impression on the artist. In Islamic tradition, the deceased is wrapped in a clean, white shroud, bound by rope in three knots: at the head, the waist, and the feet. Kasem soon began researching early Islamic mourning rituals, particularly the phenomenon of wailing, a ritual practiced during Islam’s development in the 7th century and enacted only by women. This combination of crying, singing, and screaming was most often conducted in a group and served to collectively mourn the deceased. The women tore their clothes, scratched their cheeks, and pulled their hair, giving a brazen voice to their sorrow. Many Muslim men scorned these unsettling rituals as uncivilized. Not only did they contradict the trust in Allah essential to the Islamic faith, they were also group actions conducted and controlled by women in a patriarchal culture.
In the works on view in the exhibition, Kasem draws from the formal aspects of these historical and contemporary rituals to create physical manifestations of her own mourning. While she chooses her fabric and ties her knots carefully, the works are made quickly and intuitively. She tears, abrades, and stretches paper, cloth, and rope nearly to the point of breaking. The works express a sense of grief’s pain and sorrow, yet their surprising elegance suggests the act of mourning’s worth. In them the artist creates her own ritual-materializing her own voice, that is, like wailing, both poetic and bold."
– Elizabeth Rooklidge
arranged fabrics, plastic storage bags.
"Compress. Protect. Organize." is a series recounting a year of tests and personal tragedy. Realizing a developing identity and how it intersects with the current political situation, gender roles and sexuality within an Islamic context and death.
These pieces have been constructed by placement within storage bags and then suffocated so their state could remain frozen, unable to unravel further.
Mixed Media Installation
Masricani is an installation addressing the middle ground, or “inbetween” of forming an identity in a transcultural situation between my Egyptian heritage and an American up bringing. The work uses themes of gender and identity politics as well as cultural protocols that are custom to individual cultures, yet trying to balance them into one person standing in the limbo between cultures.
Cement casted Fabrics
Fabric, Cement, Slip diped lace
Made for the Radical Love: Female Lust exhibition at the Crypt gallery in London, artists were given poems by female Arab poets from the 8th-12th century CE. In response to a poem by Fadl Ashsha'ira:
"Riding beasts are no joy to ride until they're bridled and mounted.
So pearls are useless unless they're pierced and threaded."
Fald Ashsha'ira was slandered by another poet, accusing her of not being a virgin and stated that he preferred "unpriced pearls"
The form was inspired by a species of sea snail found in my city of San Diego, California. When the tide is low, you can crawl around on the rocks usually covered by the ocean and search for shells or tide pools. If you move the rocks around, you can find the shell of the Astrea Undosa which is like spiral pyramid in shape, and usually caked in sediment from the sea which looks like cement giving it a stony or fossil type feel to the shell. If you let it dry out, some of the sediment cracks off to reveal glimpses of a beautiful pearly shell. Often the shells found are broken or cracked. My answer to both poets in Fald Ashsha'ira situation: A pearl is a pearl, regardless of its state and holds beauty and value in all faces of its appearance. Unearthed from the depths of dark waters, forced, or freed from its captivity -- it has already traveled a great deal to face the judgement of our eyes. The same holds true for the shells that also inspired the piece. Many of them are already broken when they wash a shore, yet are just as beautiful.
Burlap, Cement, Thread
Cement cast Fabric
Cement cast Fabric
Bronze, Cement Cast Fabric, Steel, Sand
Inspired by the story of Azdah Bint Al-Harith -- A woman who saved her people caught in a waring conflict.
Women are glorified when they risk their well being order to make a difference. We are respected as martyrs more often than rebels. Given recognition in saving the lives of men more so than the lives of women. However in this instance, her act to inspire the women to save the men also took the initiative to save themselves.The risk of concubinage and slavery for themselves and their children was immanent if the soldiers were defeated. Especially in a time and culture where survival was highly dependent on men.
Her actions project onward through time, raising up above the sand that had buried the ones who came before her. Inspiring the ones who come after her to transcend the voices of misogynists who attempt to bury the progression for self preservation.
Cement Cast Fitted Bedsheet
The Ancient concept of virginity is an archaic measure of a women's value. To this day, within any culture, the constructs of this particular concept enforce toxic roles on every gender - roles which ultimately define the level of status of the individual.
Tradition in some Arab cultures would call for the presentation of the wedding night bedsheets to the parents of the groom. Or in some instances, to the eyes of the community to prove the honor of the bride and how she kept herself pure for her husband. Thus implying that a women's honor is dependent on the condition of her hymen and if her blood spills upon consummation . That her beauty in her devotion to God, is preserved in her vigilance to stay pure for her husband.
Wearing a Hijab or a head scarf of some kind is practiced by many muslim women world wide in observance of the Islamic concept of modesty. Muslims are required to follow a code of modesty. However that modesty must be practiced internally before presented outwardly. The hijab has become an unintentional symbol of Islam though years of cultural opinion and practice. In some cases, the fabric has acquired more respect and importance than the one who chooses to wear it.
Although the scarf shines radiantly in the light, it's luster is meaningless without the person beneath it.
The stereotypical view of a Muslim woman has been demoted to her eyes; and that is all she physically appears to be, according to Google, western and conservative Middle Eastern views. When the body is covered in drapes or loose fitting clothing/covers, it takes away a sense of humanity. The human form has been altered and concealed by fabric and folds which makes relating to said person difficult. However, no matter how much of the body is covered, a person can still be read and related as long as their eyes are visible to meet in mutual contact.
Eyes are the windows to the soul, though some say the doorway. Eyes are what attract us first and foremost to a persons face, and from the eyes, we make judgments on a persons unspoken character. Since the eyes are the windows to the soul, it can be considered, even in the most extreme societies and conditions, that the eyes are unofficially the only part of the woman that is typically “halal” (permissible) to the public eye. The eyes are clean and harmless, and yet are also capable of mischief. The eyes can see truths and lies, things they are not supposed to see, read great words of inspiration for good or evil. So then we have essentially reduced an entire human being, with desires, passions, and all ideas, to eyes and pure soul. However, as long as the eyes are present, the strongest sense of humanity should still be there.
Eye contact is formidable, and makes many uncomfortable and intimidated because of its power. The conventional idea of a veiled Muslim woman is not just an oppressed over dressed woman reduced to just a pair of eyes, but an entire being, each powerful in her own way. The power of her watchful eyes, gazes back with the same intensity that the world judges her with.
Cement Covered Fabric, Steel, Bronze, Gold Leaf, Stone
Speaking is a powerful action. As words take little effort to form, yet can cause the greatest amount of impact. The act of speaking up against an oppressor or an injustice is an act of true beauty which can be born of even the roughest of characters. Given the passion of words, a movement can be started to inspire change for the better.
Installation, Projection, Acrylic Paint
Response to the 3 days spent in El Minya Governorate while traveling in Egypt.
In my memories of my visit to Egypt, I remember many of the wall reliefs of gods and goddesses telling stories of the earth’s creation or various myths. Some of these carvings spanned the entirety of the height of the temples. They were larger than life, and made to make the viewer believe that the people or gods that these images portray were indeed greater than life. However, when Abrahamic religions began to spread out and enter into Egypt, they were deeply offended by these idols and made a point to deface them and remove them from existence.
In the past, I have made terrible decisions and mistakes that seemed like a great idea at the time: Almost a defining moment. And when I was doing them I was so into what I was doing and certain of the choice. However, looking back on my personal history, I’ve come to realize that those were not very sound ideas and where actually pretty awful. These are things that I regret, things I wish to forget and be forgiven for. But those things are a permanent part of me, and within myself and have made me who I am. As much as I try to erase or hide the things that I have done, these experiences have benefited me in a way. They have taught me things. Or have become mental artifacts for my future self to discover and erase or praise. In a way, its like I’m creating a mental idol of myself, the person that I want to be, and I am creating that person through each act and experience that I do. After review, I go through and omit the things that I regret, but even still, the fact that I know I did those things can never be erased form me and I can mold them to what I want to benefit me: to add to the creation of who I want to be.