New Colonialism

posted by Bridget on 28 May 2013

Another project I saw during my visit to the University of Creative Arts was by Sanaa Hamid and provoked a challenging conversation between us.

Sanaa Hamid, a second year student at Rochester is a thoughtful and provocative image maker. She showed me a number of projects, all connected with ideas of identity, starting points for an aspiring young artist.

Through Her Eyes is an attempt to conform to culturally inherited expectations and ideologies that are imposed on her as a young Pakistani girl living in the UK in a family with strong cultural links to Pakistan and India. Cindy Sherman of course springs to mind, but nevertheless, a considered exploration of Sanaa's interest in cross cultural influences.

sanna Hamid

Her latest series Cultural Appropriation is altogether a more provocative series and I thoroughly enjoyed discussing its premise and Sanaa's own position.

The principle idea is that in a form of new colonialism, western fashion is appropriating religious symbols, taking them out of their spiritual context and offering them up to the secular fashionistas.

The question at the heart of the project is - do religiously define symbols hold a cultural specificity that inhibits their transferrence to use in non religious spheres? The meanings of signs can change through time. The swastika has been used in various ancient civilizations including China, Japan, India, and Southern Europe and even though it is more readily recognised today as the symbol of German facism it remains widely used in Indian religions, sepcifically Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It can also be found on brass plaques in Uk churchs as part of the decoration on clerical robes.

So the proposition that signs can be owned by particular groups to my mind forces them into ghettoes, which by definition are closed, insular groupings that often lead to social tension and the possibility for the dominant groups to use them as scapegoats.

sanna mia

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