Lahore artist rips the veil away from stereotypes by using one

Published: May 30, 2012
Works by Amra Khan featuring The Rolling Stone . PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY

Works by Amra Khan featuring The Rolling Stone . PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY

Works by Amra Khan featuring My Love for LV Grows . PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY
Works by Amra Khan featuring The Rolling Stone . PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY
Works by Amra Khan featuring The Player. PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY
Works by Amra Khan featuring I Eat Therefore I am III .  PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY
Works by Amra Khan featuring Trucky. PHOTO COURTESY CANVAS GALLERY

KARACHI: The Playboy magazine’s pink bunny or The Rolling Stones’ big red lips are common logos reprinted on t-shirts, mugs and even handbags, but artist Amra Khan decided to embroider them on niqabs as an experiment.

“It started off as an experiment in Lahore and now we’ve brought it to Karachi,” says the Lahore-based artist who is showcasing her work at the Canvas Gallery alongside Mohsin Shafi. The artists, both alumni of the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, will display their works at the exhibition “The Noose” till June 7.

Khan explains that people can often express what they feel on the inside through their apparel and accessories. “But a common notion with women who cover their face is that they can’t bring to the surface what they feel inside,” says Khan. “We have certain stereotypes in our mind about such women but we need to realise that it’s very grey, not all black and white.”

The artist said that it would be wrong to assume that a woman who chooses to wear a veil is not aware of the adult magazine Playboy or is not familiar with high-end couture like Chanel. “It is probable that she watches MTV. The liberals and the not-so-liberals are pretty much the same but the latter have certain preconceived notions attached to them by the former.”

Experimenting through art

The series of women with embroidered veils started as an experiment to catch people’s reactions. “There’s this craze in Lahore that everything has to be embroidered and so I took to the sewing machine and decided to go for this project,” Khan said while talking to The Express Tribune. Her work was initially displayed at the NCA.

Khan chose to be a part of her art experiment and tried on her veil with a zipper in public to feel the reaction instead of just observing it. “I wore the niqaab to the canteen at NCA and had my chai and samosa like any other person.” She also ventured into the bazaars in the posh localities of Lahore, such as the Liberty Market in Gulberg where she was told to leave from one shoe shop. “There were people speaking in English and saying things like ‘How does she breathe in those things?’ while they were right next to me. They probably assumed a niqaab-posh woman wouldn’t speak English,” says Khan while narrating her experience. “But interestingly, in bazaars such as Ichhra and Dharampura, people appreciated my art and asked where I found my veil.”

Postcards of the series are on sale at the gallery in Karachi which is a way of eliciting reactions in a variety of people, says Khan. “From getting it stamped to having it delivered, it will come across many people and hopefully, it will make them think.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • faraz
    May 30, 2012 - 5:47AM

    she should try and sell them in saudi arabia, i am sure they will be a big hit among the saudi girls.


  • Abdulah
    May 30, 2012 - 7:34AM

    take em to saudi arabia and iran


  • Thoughtful
    May 30, 2012 - 7:48AM

    It hides the real you and dons a mask.


  • HH
    May 30, 2012 - 8:41AM

    WIth all due respect to the artist, I think this is not praisable. Hijab has a certain respect to it and embroiding playboy’s logo is definitely not a respectable art.


  • May 30, 2012 - 8:45AM

    I failed to understand the whole point of this bigotry. Why the so called liberals these days tend to ridicule our Islamic and cultural values in order to gain International coverage – and of course NGOs’ funding?


  • citizen
    May 30, 2012 - 9:12AM

    lol ! great work :))


  • ahmed
    May 30, 2012 - 9:19AM

    @Faraz, i totally agree with you, Middle East could be a hit with these styles.


  • Aditya Randhawa
    May 30, 2012 - 9:38AM

    Colorful and artistic clothes and music are unIslamic


  • Azeez
    May 30, 2012 - 9:43AM

    I am not a big supporter of this kind of hijaab, but whoever follows this trend, she takes it as a decent thing. Their main point is to avoid unnecessary attention. Why these so called artists want to spoil it. It is not creativity, its indecency and somewhat near to ridiculing something.


  • SaQiB
    May 30, 2012 - 10:32AM

    n now when the conservatives bash them for ridiculing our values, they’d start mumbling about human rights and intolerance…….. i’d like to see if they let themselves be ridiculed………..


  • ahmed
    May 30, 2012 - 10:35AM

    @PAKIGHAN, if i am not wrong, its more related to arab culture than to islam.


  • Rashid
    May 30, 2012 - 10:50AM

    This is most Stupid Act done so far in Pakistan history. I strongly condemn this and the stupid and illiterate artist.


  • May 30, 2012 - 11:12AM

    Make it of any Design , Any Colour or Print …As Long as some one wears it properly ..No Problem at all :)


  • May 30, 2012 - 11:13AM

    But Play Boy logo is Not Cool At all..


  • Dr Omar
    May 30, 2012 - 11:28AM

    First of all this is a face veil not hijab! Covering the face with a veil is just an old Arab tradition. It is not an essential Islamic dress code!

    If you look up other Muslim cultures (Far East, Iran and Central Asian countries) you will find women wearing head scarves but not face veils! So please all the critics of this article should realize that its an old Arab culture at the center of attention here not Islam!

    And please try to understand that everything from Medieval Arabia doesn’t become a part & parcel of Islam! Pakistanis especially need to wake up and realize this!


  • Sohail
    May 30, 2012 - 12:01PM

    “This most Stupid Act done so far in Pakistan history”.. Seriously?? I strongly doubt that.


  • messed
    May 30, 2012 - 12:02PM

    lol this is stupid


  • Khan a
    May 30, 2012 - 12:11PM

    Such a shame,


  • Rashid
    May 30, 2012 - 12:57PM

    @Dr Omar, Dr. Sahab, this is not the point here. The point is that there are people who believe it to be a part of Islamic veil, and whether it is, or not, is a different discussion. But if someone does believe that, and now that it is part of their belief, you should respect their views and do not ridicule them; this applies especially to religious beliefs. Hence, in my view, all this designed stuff is not cool at all, and directly ridicules those females who practice veil. This is against decent gesture and only widens the gap between classes of our society. By the way, there is a huge number of females in our society who practice face-veil absolutely by their own will.


  • najam gardezi
    May 30, 2012 - 2:59PM

    high five- good job- pretty innovative. god bless.


  • tahir.attarwala
    May 30, 2012 - 3:59PM

    Awesome work..Recommend

  • Diya
    May 30, 2012 - 5:05PM

    @Aditya Randhawa:
    Music, yes is unIslamic. But colors and artistic things are not unIslamic; as long as it doesn’t trangsress to being obscene.


  • May 30, 2012 - 5:20PM

    sorry to say but i dnt thnk this will work in our land..
    cuz…. of some PLAYBOY logo on it … looolz


  • Dr Omar
    May 30, 2012 - 5:28PM

    @ Rahsid: With due respect, I think this precisely is the point! An Arab custom being considered a viable Islamic practice; and thus any criticism or satire (which some people might consider in poor taste) will be considered an attack on the religion and thus would fuel more fanaticism.

    A clear demarcation is needed between medieval Arabia & Islam and people need to be made aware of this, only then they would be in a better position to comment/argue on such issues! Faith in religion should be augmented with proper academic reference, because only then a clarity in debate is possible!

    And whether females practice veil wearing out of freewill or are conditioned forcefully (in their homes from early age) to do so, is wide debate; but I agree that they might find this offensive. But on the other end, conservatives have always branded liberal females (wearing jeans and sleeveless etc) as women of ill repute/loose character and no one has ever asked them to curb their fanaticism/opinions!

    In short both sides need a lesson in tolerance, need to “live & let live”and most importantly look up proper but multiple academic references when debating on issues!


  • Rashid
    May 30, 2012 - 5:51PM

    With very due respect; the artist of this idea will soon get the response of general public if it comes to there knowledge…
    It is like to make fun of Hijaab, which is a necessary dress of a Muslim women, to protect herself…


  • Jahanzeb
    May 30, 2012 - 5:55PM

    So shame what r u trying to show ?Recommend

  • May 30, 2012 - 6:09PM

    Fashionable Mocking to Niqab/Hijab? Shame Shame


  • Dr Omar
    May 30, 2012 - 6:15PM

    @ Rashid: You have just proved my point my friend! The general public (due to its little exposure and virtually no education) will think this is an attack on our faith and retaliate against the artist (who although happens to be ‘No friend’ of mine) in a violent manner!

    Proving once again that there is a rampant lack of tolerance and hardly any academic base when there comes to debating on issues of personal beliefs or guidelines of faith.

    And as far as protection for Muslim women is concerned, facts and figures show a lot of Muslim women are under threat in their own Islamic societies by men of their own faith (who misuse/manipulate religion to hold women submissive and subservient to them ) and these are the people from whom the Muslim women need protection from!

    And time and again, for the record, please this is not Hijab, its a Niqab (a face veil)


  • werdsw
    May 30, 2012 - 7:22PM

    what she fails to realise is that many women who do cover their faces are expressing what they feel on the inside and that is their modesty. Many do know about Playboy and Chanel but whether they want don them on or discuss them is an entirely different matter. They arent ignorant or suppressed but rather they dont think these things worthy to be topics of discussion or admiration. They reason why they wear the niqaab is to avoid unnecessary attention and to come up with embroidered niqaabs just defeats that purpose.


  • Yama the Afghan
    May 30, 2012 - 8:15PM

    Another cheap attempt to fuse our culture with pedestrian Western pop culture. Trying to pass these images off as art is a shame for a graduate of a reputable school.Recommend

  • Shaista
    May 31, 2012 - 8:30AM

    Because you people ridicule our liberal values thats why :)


  • May 31, 2012 - 3:37PM

    @Diya: …. please quote the verse/s which prohibits music.


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