Delicate, translucent and radiant Afghani burqas make up the last creative project by Lebanese-American Denise Maroney. Exploring the history and art of traditional and contemporary Islamic dress through an experiment of textiles, ink, and threads, Maroney invites her viewers to reflect on what the burqa has come to represent today.
Visibly Veiled is an installation of five burqas hung from a mobile by invisible fishing wire. Suspended this way, the red and orange attires represent something different from how the garment is interpreted in the contemporary discourse. The chadori burqa has been abused by the Taliban and stigmatised by Western media. Rarely it is observed for what it essentially is: pieces of fabric sewn together.
Through recreating something familiar, the artist challenges people to reflect on their own current social conditions. Maroney’s recreation of the burqa in an art context questions how cultural, political, and religious discourses are played out in women’s clothing.
While the embroidery, bold colours, and expansive pleats evoke butterflies in flight, the frozen poses create an eerie, ghostly effect. “My burqas are vibrant and liberated in the face of the tensions that exist on all levels of contemporary veiling,” says Maroney.
The installation of colourful silk chiffon and silk organza burqas were displayed at New York’s Textile Arts Center in July. Maroney arrives in Beirut in the fall, and she plans for a touring exhibit in the region. The pictures are taken by photographer Rhea Karam.