Constructed femininity and individuality of women in Concealed
Habiba Nowrose's faceless women in kitsch fabrics with chequered patterns and bright colour portrayed a multi-dimensional message: identity as a constructed idea can tell an entire story of a country, region and cultural practice. Habiba Nowrose's Concealed, a series of conceptual photography, will be showcased at Kalakendra, Muhammadpur till September 15, 2017. As the artist clearly postulated in her pamphlet, we lose our individuality in the process of beautifying our identity -- by fabrics and cosmetics. She is bringing out her creativity at its best and she starts everything on an elaborate stage. She buys and borrows and finds items, aesthetically appealing yet kitsch in type, mostly from the popular shopping place of Dhaka city 'Chadni Chawk' where both cheap clothes and rejected stock lots of international fashion brands are found abundantly.
But, why does she experiment mostly with faces in her photographs? Habiba argues that a face can be the most convincing way of indentifying an individual. Hiding the face with a piece of spangled or sometimes opaque or veil, she wants us to see identity differently. Once the fabrics, the pattern and the tinkers come to light, they convey a deeper story than the face of that individual. It tells us where that particular individual comes from, what his/her belief is, how he/she perceives the world in regard to her existence and more.
These brilliant and fresh ideas were blended into Habiba's photography series. Her works shed light on gender issue deeply. To a certain extent the kitsch fabrics and their patterned works remind how stereotypically humanity is divided into two classes -- men and women -- whose attires, gaits, interests and occupations are manifestly different. Looking at her photography, we understand that these differences are superficial, but grimly we also become aware that they exist in our society.
Her academic background in social science allowed her to explore gender and identity in a fascinating way. Objects, colours, patterns, and locations -- all play a fundamental role in her photography as she carefully takes note on all of them. In her artistic endeavour, she regards extensively to these media. Her genius would muster assorted items and put them into commendable rendition, telling a grim tale of 'gender construction'. They tell us how gender discourse, in regards to women, circumscribed women within some constructed limits and imprisoned her in subjectivity.
Women is the 'Other' of the society -- her faceless women convey this patriarchal notion while making us aware how it was constructed -- to some extent even -- by women themselves, falling prey to the lures of patriarchal system. To refute this stereotypical notion she invites us to understand gender dynamically. Her works makes us aware of the fabrics we wear and costumes we use, with a note on their aesthetics and epistemology. She portrayed femininity and identity with a fresh perspective. In her own opinion, "The evolution of modern day women cannot be separated from the evolution of fashion and garments industry. Whether it is the lace makers of Narsapur in India during colonial rule or garments workers in Bangladesh today, whenever we speak about fashion, fabric or garment we also talk about an industry that is considered profoundly feminine. Hence, it seemed logical for me to talk about women and femininity through a material which is deeply women's age-old skill of weaving. In a capitalist patriarchal society, 'femininity' is seen as a subordinated attribute that belongs to the realm of silence, invisibility and anonymity. I wanted to create images that will be representative of the censorship and invisibility of women experiences."