مش عيب

Shame (less)

Iman Al-dabbagh

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This project explores the public, private, and underground lives of artists, who grew up in a society that doesn’t give creative self expression importance in schools, and have been censored from the common Saudi narrative. Some of the artists are: Ahd, an actress and filmmaker who enjoys pole dancing; Zahra, a figurative painter inspired by nudes; Khalid, a musician arrested in 1995 for performing to a mixed gender audience; and Mariam, who fearlessly rides her bike within a society that condemns it. Whether or not they have supportive families, these artists have found ways to express and exhibit their work, while still heeding the three most taboo topics: religion, politics, and the body/sex. In society’s eyes, what they’re doing is “3eib,” a dominant word, reinforced in the home, in schools, and society. 3eib is an umbrella term in Arabic that means socially inappropriate, shameful, or taboo, and the intensity of it varies.

Through the multi layered character encounters, I realized that I was working on unique stories that make up a bigger story: a self-portrait. A story about my memories of growing up here and about my relationship with today’s society, now as an artist and a visitor. A story of resistance, the battle between society’s expectation and what the heart desires, and a story of hope for the next generations to come.​

The excerpted texts come from common rhetoric, found writings, and conversations with the artists during times of frustration, and from moments of courage.

Saudi Arabia

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The previous clip is from the Egyptian movie Yasmin (1950) starring little Fairouz who inspired my interest in dance, during my earliest encounter with “3eib” – the first of more “3eibs” to come in the future.

My daughter dancing, 2017

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“Sometime in grade school I got suspended for drawing nudes, today, ten years later, it’s pretty much my life,” reads Zahra’s Instagram bio, 2016.

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"I want to dance," Zahra sprays on a wall in public, 2017.

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“I don’t ride as a statement, it’s about the journey and enjoying it,” says Mariam, founder of the Humming Tree community for creative expression, 2016

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Khalid, former Anatolia member, who was arrested in 1995 for playing a concert to a mixed gender crowd, about to practice with his bandmate Hasan, who was also arrested that day 21 years ago for attending the concert, 2017

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At an underground event, a panicking crowd walks towards a back door to escape after being told the religious police is outside of the building, 2017.

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“Talk to me about revolution, freedom, and struggle, then kiss me” – graffiti on wall, addressed to a woman, 2017.

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Artist covers her face as she approaches her neighborhood, 2017

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Ahd's tattoo translates to "Whatever will be, will be", 2016

Iman Al-dabbagh

Saudi Arabia

Iman Aldabbagh is a Saudi photographer and artist born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Palestinian and Armenian parents. She moved to southern California at 18 where she studied graphic design and worked in design and print production before getting into photography. She has experience teaching youth in Amman, Jordan and Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and is currently based in Jeddah. Iman’s works mostly focus on gender issues, social taboos, and cultural and ethnic identity. Her diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds play a big role in how she sees the world. She is a regular contributor to @EverydayMiddleEast.

www.photosbyiman.com
@photosbyiman