Deported. Denied. Rejected.
Upon settling in the United States due to the ongoing war in Yemen, Asiya al-Sharabi made sure, among the few objects she brought from her native land, to bring garments that once belonged to her mother. Later, the artist and mother of two, based in Richmond, Virginia, used those garments in a stunning photographic body of work representing Yemeni immigrants in the US throughout the past century.
‘Trumperie’ (deception) is a self-portrait series that represents the stories of migrant Yemeni women. It comes at a sensitive time as the US last year announced a travel ban that specifically affects seven Muslim nations.
Asiya long-aspired to become an artist, something she found difficult to achieve in a conservative society. Challenging social norms, she began her artistic career by taking photographs inside her home studio. She photographed foreign women, but if they were unavailable, she worked with local women, camouflaging their identities since photographing women in Yemen is not widely accepted.
Upon a trip to Canada to attend a group exhibition of her show, Asiya was denied entry into the country. This experience inspired her to develop the series ‘Denied’; images of women’s faces from her former series ‘Deception’ were printed as black and white photographs stamped with the word ‘denied’ across the face. Her technique expresses the personal struggles that women encounter around the world – particularly women from Arab and Muslim nations.
Last month, Asiya exhibited ‘Denied’ in the group exhibition, ‘Before We Were Banned’, an art show that took place in New York city and included work by artists that come from countries affected by the travel ban.