"Chaza Charafeddine's "Divine Comedy" juxtaposes contemporary portraits of Beirut's underground transgender and cross-dressing community with reproductions of Islamic miniatures and popular imagery, thus creating a space within which to negotiate gender fluidity and sexual ambiguity.
The photography-based series "Divine Comedy" by Lebanese visual artist Chaza Charafeddine offers a critique of the changing mores in Middle Eastern/Islamic societies. Charafeddine inserts contemporary portraits of members of Beirut's underground transgender and cross-dressing community into reproductions of Persian and Mughal miniatures and popular imagery of mythological beings from the mid-20th century. Produced as a commentary on the rising conservatism in Middle Eastern societies, the resulting body of work represents a multilayered critique of a "forgotten" or "negated" history, a history that allowed for a broader understanding of what the term "Islamic" or "Muslim" culture might accommodate.
Charafeddine portrays her models as strongly symbolic creatures, such as angels, the Buraq, brides, sultanas, but also as playful beings such as composite creatures of peacocks and women or as a "fruit lady". The models are presented as beautiful, elegant and refined and the portraits are placed in juxtaposition with classical Islamic imagery of court scenes involving celebrations, music and dance and young lovers, Sufi religious practices or imagery from various versions of the Miraj Nameh. The juxtaposition of references to depictions of humans and creatures whose sexual identities are ambiguous and the contemporary portraits of transsexuals or cross-dressing men creates a space within which to negotiate new understandings of gender identities without denouncing the Islamic cultural heritage. The paper will discuss how the artist uses combinations of images as a critique of contemporary denial of gender fluidity and sexual ambiguity and how this denial differs from earlier historical periods."
Critique by Association. Chaza Charafeddine's "Divine Comedy" and contemporary representations of gender in the Middle East.
Author: Charlotte Bank
(Paper short abstract)
On beauty and gender aesthetics, today and in early Islamic art [14-18th century.]
Edition of 5, all photographs are printed with Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Epson Somerset® Velvet (255gsm) fine art cotton rag paper and mounted on medium density aluminum.
في موضوعة الجمال والجمالية الجندريّة اليوم وكما نجدها في الفن الإسلامي العائد إلى الفترة الممتدّة بين القرنين الرابع عشر والثامن عشر.