What influence does gender have on art production in nowadays Southwestern Asia? Does gender embody everyday life experiences, including the artistic experience? Are gendered spaces of the region Orientalized, demystified, or both? Are bodies, especially women bodies, described asexualized, passive and silent? Do local authors and artists living in diaspora reproduce totalizing or essentialist tendencies? Are power relations between the former colonizers and colonized uncovered? Has the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring given women a greater voice and are more individuals willing to talk about gender openly? Is the view that assumes that women in Southwestern Asia are oppressed and left out of cultural debates a misconception?
In her anthology Reeds from Red Lips, Pamela Chrabieh explores these questions through stories told from a wide spectrum of voices, all from authors and artists who dream of peacebuilding, human rights, and women’s rights in Southwestern Asia.
From the Author
Most of those who contributed to this collective work are part of the Red Lips High Heels’ movement (redlipshighheels.com), an online gathering project of writers and artists I launched in 2012 in Lebanon. This movement advocates peacebuilding, human rights and women’s rights in Southwestern Asia. It involves individuals from various ethnic, religious, cultural, socio-economic and political backgrounds, living in the region and in diaspora. Academics,lawyers, psychologists, artists, educators, employees of the private and public sectors, business women and housewives, students, men, women, and people of different sexual orientations, of gender identities and expressions, have been engaging in writing, drawing, reading, commenting on content from various feminist and human rights/peacebuilding perspectives, and in demonstrating their commitments to intermingling causes. Southwestern Asia has unfortunately been too often stereotyped, viewed as homogeneous and demonized, but the authors and artists featured in this book deconstruct prejudices. They tell stories of the rich pasts and current diversities of this part of the world. They prove somehow that the local belongings, realities, memories and histories are not to be analyzed through a binary perspective – they are far too complex, a mélange of grey zones and multiple shades.
The book’s contributors also unveil their innermost selves. Their works are critical engagements with contexts, interpretations of self and other, and cultural memory; they materialize and visualize embodied visions and experiences. Indeed, these artists and authors write about their lives and what they see happening in the heart of their respective societies and for some, in their post-modern nomadic lifestyles. Through their texts and images, they carry somehow diverse refrains of the cities and lands they come from and/or inhabit; in other words, diverse orchestrations.
Critics may argue that the arts and real life are two different matters;that shapes, colors and letters tell us something about visual arts, literature and poetry but not about gender constructions and relations. However, for the authors and artists featured in this book, artistic and literary contents and formats serve as a barometer by which one can understand some of the numerous intricate individual and collective identities, and how gender intersects with ethnicity, religion, economy, politics, age, disability, etc.; at least, one can understand a main function of art which is to contribute to change.
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), 2017