A couple weeks ago, I was walking with a friend, when she abruptly stopped listening to me and turned to look at a bulletin board we were passing. I followed her gaze, and… oh. Uh. Wow.
Advertising a contemporary dance theatre performance called “Re-Humanize Me” at Montreal’s Fringe Festival, the poster features a woman in niqab in an Indian dance pose – with one bare leg peeking out from her abaya. When I looked up the performance online, I found the postcard image (see below) as well, which is similar, but with both legs exposed, bent, and turned out.
The description on the Montreal Fringe Festival website says:
“DISCLAIMER! Socially controversial. Politically precarious. Intriguingly risky discourse. Re-Humanize Me exposes flaws in a multicultural society and begs reflection on perceptions of the body from different cultural angles. Do we take advantage of what we are familiar with? This captivating performance will turn heads in every direction.”
I’ll get to the performance in a second, but let’s stop and talk about the publicity, and the posters/postcards especially. The title suggests that this performance is something that will “re-humanize” (presumably at least in part referring to re-humanizing women who actually wear niqab), and the website description paints it as “controversial” and “risky.” Of course, those quotes are referring to the performance and not to the promotional material, but the publicity still forms part of the overall project, and I think the images fall short of the project’s goals. On one hand, given the long history of Orientalist imagery of the seductive, partially-veiled, exotic Arab and/or Muslim woman, there is nothing particularly new or daring about showing a woman in niqab in this kind of pose. [Read more...]