In this 2017 Dutch language video, photographer Saskia Aukema tells about her winning subject: depicting women wearing niqabs.
Conservative Christians, ultra-orthodox Jews, ultra-orthodox Muslims and other right-wingers often see women wearing miniskirts as bad women. They are supposedly dangerous seducers ruining men and making decent women indecent by their bad example, they are sex-addicted whores; or else, some pimp must be forcing them to wear these ‘immodest’ clothes.
In photographer Saskia Aukema’s work, clichés about other women prove to be wrong as well.
About her photo book, Veiled: Too Busy Being Awesome:
There is perhaps no more controversial garment of clothing in Western Europe than the niqab: the face veil that leaves only the eyes visible. Who are the women who choose to wear something that generates so much discussion? What do they find important, beautiful and funny? In Veiled, photographer Saskia Aukema reveals a world that has always been hidden to most of us.
Interview fragments provide depth to the photos, which won a Zilveren Camera [photo contest award] in the portraits category in 2016. Professor Annelies Moors (Amsterdam University) wrote the epilogue.
Translated from a Dutch Leiden University site interview, 14 March 2018:
‘I want to show different images of niqab wearers’
March 14, 2018
For her photo series ‘Veiled’, Leiden University alumna Saskia Aukema portrayed women in niqabs, eg, with the clothes they like to wear privately. With this series she won the International Photo Festival Leiden. …
With your photo series ‘Veiled’ you won the International Photo Festival Leiden. What is the series about?
‘For more than three years I have followed a number of Dutch and British women who wear niqabs. I have spoken to them about their reasons for wearing the niqab and what their life looks like. And I have portrayed them, in their niqabs but also with the clothes they like to wear privately. First they all came with festive clothes, the most beautiful evening dresses. One of the women said: I will just show a pair of jeans, because we do not wear all those nice dresses all the time! Or the woman who saw herself as a feminist, and arrived with a sweater with ‘Power to the girls’ on it. This series is also a combination of image and word: the series is published in book form in which the photos are accompanied by statements of the women. Because although you can tell a lot with an image, you can never answer the why question. ‘
‘There are an estimated 200 to 400 niqab wearers in the Netherlands, they are not many. It is one of the reasons why making the series took so long. I first came into contact with a woman wearing a niqab, because I made a series about converts to Islam, for my graduation at the photography school. For that I visited sister groups in mosques, and some women wore niqabs. At first I was shocked by it, but when I talked to them, I soon discovered that my image of niqab wearers was not right. Then I thought: I want to make a series about this.’
In what way did your image not match their reality?
‘It was actually the standard image we have of women in niqabs: we think that they are strict fundamentalists, and that they are forced by their husbands or their fathers to wear niqabs. But I discovered that these women choose it themselves. In fact, their husbands and relatives are opposed to it, because they are afraid that the women will be verbally abused or harassed because of their niqabs. My conversations made me want to show the other side of niqab wearers. Without the prejudices, the fear, the idea of coercion, but just colourful, cheerful and very light. Where we often associate niqabs with dark or black, I have exposed my photos enormously, almost overexposed. I wanted to offer a counterweight to the standard image.’
Which story has impressed you most?
“What hit me a lot was the aggression with which these women have to deal. That is really excessive. People wish them the worst things. I think everyone agrees, including the niqab wearers themselves, that their way of dressing can make people uncomfortable and sometimes can be frightening. But because of that fear, someone supposedly can throw all sorts of threats at their heads? I do not understand that. I would like to say to people: go talk to them. Because there are very nice and colourful people behind that niqab.’
USA: Horrifying Facebook videos show racist moms teaching children how to “be patriots” by vandalizing mosques.