Welcome to my new painting, entitled Inanna in Damascus
I have created it for a very special exhibition that will be held at the University of Ottawa on March 08-15, 2008, entitled "Corrective Lenses: Challenging Representations of Women of Colour in Art."
I am very honoured to be a part of this show, the women involved are all inspiring and established in art, politics, academia and journalism... If any of you will be in or around Ottawa, make your way out to the U of O for the panel discussions and art starting at 4pm on Saturday March 08.
This is the breakdown of my piece so you could have a better idea of what exactly was going through my mind:
"Inanna in Damascus" is a reinterpretation of “The Slave Market” (1867) by Jean-Leon Gerome. It has been re-imagined as the modern day depiction of the Iraqi prostitutes that are being exploited daily in clubs, brothels and hotels around Damascus.
The original Orientalist painting by Gerome is an apparent representation of a transaction between slave merchant and buyer of the 'slave' woman in the centre. It is set in an unnamed Arab country, but its assumed that it existed in Gerome’s imaginary Orient. I chose this particular painting to re-imagine for numerous reasons. It is these same connections of pimp and client, the soldier and the politician, and the Arab businessman that existed in the 19th century and today.
In "Inanna in Damascus", I chose to expose the sex industry that is currently running rampant in Middle East due to the consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the resulting exodus of refugees. Syria is currently housing the most refugees out of Iraq's neighboring countries, with over 1.5 million Iraqi's taking refuge there. Prostitution has become both an industry and a form of slavery, with stories of Iraqi girls either getting sold by desperate families, duped by shady 'pimps' promising them decent jobs, or out of the woman's lack of options as a refugee in a without a breadwinner and without the right to hold a working position. Inanna, the female figure, is the Sumerian goddess of sexuality and war, one of the most revered goddesses of pre-Islamic Mesopotamia. The painting represents the Arab World's most undiluted oppressor of Women, and also their most frequent client, the Saudi 'Wahabi' man. Also present is the American soldier, a reminder of the War across the border, and of the chaos that ensued out of his governments presence in Iraq. Finally, the pimp stands behind Inanna, while all four stand in front of a Syrian cityscape in the Ottoman-esque courtyard of a nightclub aptly called "Al Hurman", defined as 'the forbidden' from Arabic, with its roots in the words "Hareem/Harem" (def: women's quarters), and "Haram" (def: sin).
Below is the original painting by Jean Leon Gerome, "The Slave Market" from 1867.