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. These issues are made present through the arrangement of fabrics, as a strong tie to the importance of textiles and patters in Egypt and Islamic practices and in the metaphorical connotation of women’s relationship to stone. I use stone in relation to women in the sense that stone is pinnacle to the foundation of society, versatile, strong yet taken advantage of. As well as the space itself, and the conditions and accommodations that gendered spaces make for different individuals.
Clashing patters and forms create a terrain of textiles in an environment of dynamics between surfaces and arrangement. The figures grouped on the floor in a flurry of color and pattern do not engage with the viewer at all, it is not their job to help the viewer understand the specifics of what they are doing. The figures’ delicate and lightweight outer appearance create the feeling of life and presence. Their physical dimension create tension with the flat upholstery patterns on which they are seated upon, and the difference within the types of fabrics separate them in context of material and purpose, yet the commonality between them is the effect of an ornamented and decorative design. Pattern and placement conflict yet collaborate in creating a visual busyness and movement between the threads in an open space. Material and purpose as in what the fabrics composure and design can be recognize by their associated use; the floor patterns suggesting an upholstered or tiled element contrast to the garment fabric that composes the figures. Their placement on the floor in an activity or social gathering further concludes a separation: an inaccessibility built of loud drapery over still formations.
All of this is backed by the mesh of two drastically different types of fabrics. The utilitarian roughness of burlap, raised and secured to the wall, painted with house paint, sewn to the soft, patterned sheet, connects both fabrics to the stitched floor patterns in a slight plane removed from the wall, creating its own enclosure. This enclosure is separated by aesthetic difference, as well as a physical partition between the viewer and the figures. The walls leading to the seated figures are grey and rough in texture with a cement burlap mix painted onto sheets of burlap and covering many of the walls in the space; exhibiting a difference in personalities of the figures and walls in the entrance of the space. This roughness through the fabric cement does not only create an aesthetic atmosphere, but also serves as a body in of itself. Previous works have utilized the cement/ fabric mixture as a connection for my perception of women and our relation to stone: strong, stoic, versatile, pinnacle foundations of society, yet taken for granted and overlooked. Through the work of Masricani a new revelation of meaning in the cement fabric mixture surfaced in the context of space. Either entrance of the gallery is primed with the cement painted onto the burlap, alluding to the idea of bringing the exterior of the gallery inwards to create an extended public space.
My installation is a reconciliation and contextualization of the moment I entered this middle ground. As a teenager, I fell in love with Egypt during a prolonged trip, feeling more at home there than in Indiana where I was born and raised. The motivation and purpose to return and assume the identity of my heritage was the lifestyle that sparked an attraction. I had studied Arabic, cultural events and history of the region post-pharaonic era and was identifying myself as an Egyptian who happened to live in America, as did my family and community throughout Egypt and Sayeed. It was upon entering the home of a women soon to be married, hosting a bridal shower that sparked the most recent identity crisis. Entering off the dusty, narrow streets with the sunbaked homes towering above me when I entered a commotion of color, sound and movement. All women, focused on the task of preparing pastries for the wedding. Unlike other welcomes, I had only received a few greetings and waves before they went back to work. The excitement of teenage girls took my arms, pulling me in every direction to meet a parent or sister which seemed to only last a few minutes at a time. I was escorted upstairs by my many new enthusiastic friends who wanted to sing karaoke, which is apparently common at bridal showers globally. However, our excitement ended when I was asked to sing along to a song by an artist I didn’t recognize. It was that moment when a native Sayeede girl and I had the same understanding of the issue at hand: I was not one of them.
In context of the cultural decorum of the Islamic world, the public space is male dominated, and women are pressured to accommodate for the men by drawing less attention to themselves; more specifically their bodies. Lisa Golombek’s The Draped Universe of Islam reflects on the historic importance and versatility of textiles in the Islamic world.
“Another category of costume tied to specific functions consisted of garments that are to be worn only out-of-doors… Apart from these functional considerations were the many facets of social behavior in which textiles played an important role. Textiles could reflect social values and codes of behavior, but they might also be actual tools of the social system. “ -Lisa Golombek (The Draped Universe of Islam PG 27-28)
In southern Egypt, it is not uncommon for a female farmer or merchant to adorn herself with her gold and silver jewelry as she works, selling her products in the dusty, sun baked settings of the market place – essentially, to wear her wealth. Whereas the private fabrics of color and pattern may be covered by a practical outer garment to protect against the elements and the wears of labor, beneath could be the textile ornaments with a wealth of color. For those who practice the Islamic code of modesty through Hijab, in the privacy of a home or an appropriate indoor place the monochromatic or earthy public garment is shed and the private garments are revealed. A barrier between the public space and the private realm must be enacted for the conditions of physical modesty. This barrier serves as more than a culturally appropriate practice as it acts as a barrier between realms of comprehension. Perpetuating a physical partition between ourselves and the figures, the illusion of peeking into a scene through a screen, suggests a feeling of taboo or being an outsider -- an Other.
A commotion between the people, their task, their garments and the designs of the interior architecture create a visually confusing and overwhelming scene. These figures, are the visual conjectures of a Masricani – a hodgepodge of fabric, somewhat crassly thrown together, yet carefully placed in a kaleidoscopic puzzle of color and pattern over three-dimensional forms.
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.