Like most arts centres across the country, on March 17th we took the very difficult decision to temporarily close our doors to the public. All the hard work that had gone into the second half of our Spring programme seemed to have crumbled away in a matter of days, with cancellations and rescheduling across the board.
It suddenly dawned on us we couldn’t now do what we have always done, which is offer a creative space in Barnsley which engages our community with a varied artistic programme. We were all a bit lost.
Re-configuring how we could still engage our audience through utilising our digital platforms, one of our first and core ideas was to create an online gallery space, allowing the visual artists we have programmed to showcase their work and importantly give our audience the opportunity to experience all the elements of an exhibition from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
Alas, Online [email protected] was created!
The first exhibition which we put on online was Faiza Omar’s wonderful self titled collection. This exhibition threads together two of her previous works, More Than My Hijab (2018) and The Good, The Bad and The Hijab (2014). Born in Zanzibar but a resident of Sheffield, Faiza explains that her work is inspired by her cultural and religious upbringing, something she discusses in an interview with Sile Sibanda on BBC Radio Sheffield (from about 40 mins in: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0836t2k).
Faiza says that Muslim women are more than what they wear on their head and through her art she seeks to depict empowered hijab-wearing women, in turn challenging peoples’ preconceptions and expectations.
How does she do this? Well, her portraiture has breath-taking precision and delicacy. It is clear much time, care and love has gone into the portraits, which demonstrates the respect the artist has for the women portrayed. The scope of the pieces as well really aids their statue and grandeur; they stand before us as icons.
Her film piece The Good, The Bad and The Hijab sheds some light into the remarks Muslim women are subjected to in everyday life. Using accurate comments that she and those around her have personally been at the receiving end of, Faiza addresses the way the world views the Hijab with honesty, humour and some, quite honestly, hilarious facial expressions. This clever use of comedy enables Faiza to hold a mirror up to the society we live in and breaks down any privilege the viewer may have to witnessing this prejudice.
You can of course form your own opinion and view the exhibition on our website here.
In response to Faiza’s exhibition, this week we are asking you: What makes you feel empowered? We are looking to share any responses we get throughout the week on our social media, so please comment on our posts, tag us in your responses or send any images/artwork/thoughts across to [email protected]!
We hope you enjoy the rest of our exhibitions on Online [email protected]