Connect>Create 2008

Jananne Al Ani, 'Veil' (1997)

Al-Ani lives and works in London. She studied Fine Art at the Byam Shaw School of Art, and graduated with an MA in photography from the Royal College of Art in 1997. Her work is primarily concerned with the complexities, ambiguities, and power relationships that are part of the processes of cultural contact and mixing. The artist has created a body of video and photographic work, involving family members; she has drawn inspiration from her own mixed race background. Al-Ani is the child of an Irish mother and Iraqi father. She uses her family in her work, and has done for a number of years. She has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States.


"In much of my work, I use my family as the performers. The family embodies a kind of cultural mixing which I wanted to present in this work, an ambiguity and sense of unfixed identity."[1]


Veils have been a part of Western and Eastern cultures for millennia, but for Westerners the veil is especially associated with Muslim societies. At all times, the veil has been weighted with symbolic meanings regarding women’s public presence. These meanings have changed as political or religious agendas have changed. The Hijab is a scarf worn over the head to cover the hair, ears and throat, but not the face. The niqab and burqa are veils that cover most of the face, except for a slit or hole for the eyes. The Afghan burqa covers the entire body and face except for a grille over the eyes. This burqa was compulsory under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. [2]


As more and more Muslim women choose to wear a veil in the West, is it as much about an expression of individual rights as well as religious identity? Rahmanara Chowdary, a teacher from Loughborough, was brought up to wear the hijab. She is one of a growing number of Muslim women in Britain who choose to wear the niqab. Since wearing the niqab, I ve become a lot more confident. Once you re covered up, people are forced to judge you not as you look as a woman but on your character. [3]


‘Veil’ is a monumental slide projection work times two, in which the faces and heads of five women are gradually revealed then concealed by the veil, alternately returning the viewers look five times over. The orientation of Al-Ani’s figures, which face their audience, creates a sense of confrontation. With an intermittent veiling and unveiling, she shows how its absence or presence affects our response to the women as individuals. By presenting the women within a blank void, the artist successfully decontextualizes them. Leaving the viewer free to attach their own narrative.


By Debbie Keable, student from the BA (hons) Contemporary Fine Art Course, Hull School of Art and Design 2009


[1] Jananne Al-Ani Interview transcript.

[2] The Big Cover-up. Andrew Anthony. The Observer. 20/11/2005

[3] “ “ “ “ “ “ “ Interview - Rahmanara Chowdury


Document icon Learning article provided by: Ferens Art Gallery, Hull | 
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