Burkha. Baby. Bust.

       "Shekaiba Wakili"

      Photographs 1995-2002

      February 15 - March 14

      Tribes Gallery, New York

Burkha. Baby. Bust.


review by Lori Kent


Thirteen photographs by Afghan-American artist Shekaiba Wakili. Color, black and white, posed and not, the images are unified by belief that Muslim Women are misunderstood and far too silent.


The earliest photographs depict refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. In Afghan Refugee Women, the focus is not on the misery of the camp, but on the individual dignity and grace of certain women despite environmental hardship. The burkha also appears in the most striking photograph of the series: a very pregnant woman reveals her swollen midsection. We see skin, dark and taunt, but no face grounds us. A like piece, artist Adele Lutz's, Burkha/Womb, was displayed at New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art in January. Lutz's burkha is a black canvas with stenciled, implied life. Wakili's photograph reveals actual human life and potential. Both works jar us into an intimate zone in which a zygote is fated to live within social constrictions. Wakili would argue, in her culture, baby gender cannot be ignored in relation to the burkha.


Since 2001, Wakili's art has been more or less in fashion. September 11th prompted the art world to attend to Afghani artists. Wakili speaks openly about the ascension and subsequent abandonment of artists of her cultural descent. Perhaps the rise of the Afghan artist has gone bust. Wakili's willingness to pursue her photographic research over a period of time, however, has not diminished with changing art world trends. The photographs are compelling images. We gaze at a foreignness among us. The issues contained within them outlive fashion because of the universality of silence, misunderstanding, and displacement.




Also published in "New York Arts" March 2003