Defying Stereotypes of Muslim Women with Paint!
Saba Barnard is a first-generation American woman from North Carolina. Her artistic perspective draws from her experience growing up Pakistani and Muslim in the United States. Saba’s portraits provide commentary on the labels that we use to identify and separate ourselves, with specific regard to gender, race, and religion. Her focus is on the universal human experience, and she uses her portraits to demonstrate that diversity is not a separating factor, but a place to begin connection.
Modern treatment of Muslim subject matter in art and media is closely tied to the political and religious controversy that seems to be pervasive in these “exotic” countries of the East. While much of the conflict is real, oftentimes, what we see in media does nothing to lessen the perception of the Muslim world as exotic, “other,” and entirely homogenous. Truly, much art and writing relies on the narrative of the East in exact opposition to the West.
This portrayal is a farce. There is a massive community of Muslims who live in these Western countries who are not antithetical to “the West.” This community is made up of individuals, each with their own unique mosaic of culture and experiences. Islam is not a tiny box. It is not one-dimensional, and neither are the people who identify with the religion. That such a simplistic perception of these peoples has persisted into our world today is almost laughable. There is a
place for everyone in this country, yet Muslims have continued to be not only homogenized, but vilified.
PROJECT: “Technicolor Muslimah”
“Technicolor Muslimah” is a series of twelve portraits of Muslim women in acrylic paint, each accompanied by an unedited written statement from the subject. The canvases are a uniform 18” x 18,” and the women are rendered in bright colors, which, in itself, is a departure from how Muslim women are often portrayed. This series focuses on aspects of these women that need to be explored – their humor, their joy, and their kindness. Each woman is identified as Muslim by her headscarf. This visual symbol is truly the only suggestion of her religion, because my perspective here is humanist. In addition, eleven of the paintings are presented with props to further support the theme of humor, or to identify the subjects as American, as well as Muslim.
You can purchase prints of her work and read more here: