Zuhal Feraidon is an Afghan born artist and is a current Aunspaugh Fifth Year Fellow at the University of Virginia. She received her BA in Studio Arts with a concentration in painting from UVA. She traveled back to Afghanistan, as part of an independent study, with research focused on female identity in one of the most difficult environments that women have to endure. This research leads to a developing portfolio in which the artist uses the self and her own experiences as a means of representation of people who are underrepresented in art. Her work can be viewed at www.zuhalferaidon.com
One middle-aged benighted Western man swears that he watched the TV say that my faith preaches hate and terrorism. Another prideful old tribesman has come up with his own interpretation of the Quran that tells me, but not him, how to live. I exist between the opinions of one and the expectations of the other.
Opinions and expectations are illusory, but my existence is real. And the existence of other Afghan women is real. This existence is challenging, enduring, and in a way unseen because a lot of our women are hidden head to toe with a veil over their eyes. Still we prevail through everyday struggles to continue to exist.
A 2011 survey by Trustlaw, a project by Thomson Reuters Foundation, determined that targeted violence against women, poverty, and inaccessible healthcare ranked Afghanistan as the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman. And that is exactly where I was born. What better way to react to danger than to become more dangerous than the circumstances you were born into? Being dangerous can mean being aware of all the injustice and boldly acknowledging that no one deserves it.
As an artist, my work is a reaction to my world. It allows for the expression of my perspective. The renowned feminist artist, Suzanne Lacy, declared that the goal of feminist art was to influence cultural attitudes and transform stereotypes, which is something I strive to achieve. My current, developing portfolio has a personal edge, and although I am primarily a painter, I am not hesitant to explore different mediums and discover different ways that I can experiment. One of my most recent series is called “Hide and Seek.”
The “Hide and Seek” gouache on paper painting series consists of paintings that are 8 inches by 8 inches. These paintings contain hidden ink transfers of figures of young women taken from photographs I captured in August 2015, in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. These ink transfers are incorporated into painted Islamic art patterns from various mosques in the Balkh province of Afghanistan. I was born in the Balkh province, and visited these mosques when I was younger, just like the girls in my paintings. The ink transfer technique in combination with gouache painting allows for the direct integration of the images of the girls into Islamic art patterns. These patterns also have hidden scriptures of “God” and “Prophet Mohammad” in Arabic. The harmonic appearance of these girls within patterns from Islamic art illustrates that women are created by God and therefore are holy in their natural appearance and being.