This new work by Birmingham-based artist Farwa Moledina is a study of the four women promised paradise in Islamic tradition. One of these is Maryam (a.s.), mother of Isa (a.s.), otherwise known as Mary, mother of Jesus.
Women of Paradise (2022) is a response to the singular religious narratives that dominate museums and galleries. Built on principles of neutrality, these spaces rarely contain depictions of Mary outside of the Christian imagination. Moledina’s work interrogates this assumption of neutrality by providing a different perspective on this figure. In the work, Maryam (a.s.) – a subject of equal cultural significance in the East – is presented alongside three female figures largely unfamiliar to the Western world. These are Aasiyah (a.s.), Khadijah (a.s.) and Fatimah (a.s.).
Moledina’s work comprises four wooden frames hinged together around digitally printed textile and embroidery. The arched frames resemble a Mihrab – a niche found in the walls of mosques that indicates the direction of prayer. The textiles and embroidery are composed of patterns relating to the women who are represented and are inspired by principles of Islamic design such as recurrence, symmetry and abstraction.
Farwa Moledina’s work is often a study of female Muslim identity. She is interested in how the western historical art narrative portrays the Muslim woman, and whether this has impacted ways in which Muslim women are viewed in the contemporary world. The multi-layered compositions within Women of Paradise invite viewers to examine preconceived notions of Muslim women and Islamic tradition.
This work is dedicated to the memory of Farwa Moledina’s late aunt Fatima, who passed away in April 2022 and was named for one of the four women of paradise. She was Farwa’s foremost mentor and actively fostered her creativity from a young age.
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