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Teaching Arwa Aburawa’s “Veiled Threat”: Radical French Graffiti

posted: 8.13.14 by Barclay Barrios

I love Arwa Aburawa’s contribution to Emerging, “Veiled Threat: The Guerrilla Graffiti of Princess Hijab” (p. 27).  It’s wonderfully complex for an essay that’s relatively brief, touching on questions of religion, politics, commercialism, and art.  What I love most about it is the way the reader has to suss out whether or not Princess Hijab’s art is radical or conservative, as it has been read both ways. 

One useful text to place next to Princess Hijab is the street art of a fellow Parisian, Suriani.  Suriani’s most recent work features drag star and Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, who recently modeled for couture design John Paul Gaultier and whose gender-bending appearance and winning performances in the Eurovision contest have garnered both praise and criticism.  In an interview with Buzzfeed, Suriani foregrounds the political functions of this art: “As the political debate about equal rights has been quite active in France recently, I decided to get inspiration from it for my recent work. I have chosen the figures of drag queens because they match the positive vibe I have been trying to transmit with my work.”

Suriani can help to tease out the political implications and complications of Princess Hajib’s work, inviting students to see it in all its complexity rather than reducing into either conservative or radical.  Taken together, these artists also underscore the social functions and political potentials for art, offering new insights and conversations about the relationship between the aesthetic and the political.

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