Shimagh Series

What does it mean to be an Arab today?

Shimagh Series at Greenbox Museum, Amsterdam
Photo courtesy of Hala Al-Obaidallah

Shimagh Qualia
The shimagh is a traditional iconic article of clothing. It represents Middle Eastern identity, where it is prevalently seen throughout the region.

For the work, Shimagh Qualia (شماغ كواليا ), the idea is to exhibit the multiculturalism of today’s world. The intention is to transfer this monochromatic article of clothing from its local habitat into the international arena, granting it a relatable cosmopolitan feel.

Shimagh Qualia is a melting pot. The many colors represent the diverse ethnic backgrounds of humanity. And the patterns resemble an interlocked world map, where borders have been meshed.

The shimagh is branded as ‘Qualia’, which is the philosophical scientific notion of “Is what I sense the exact same as what you sense?” Even though it is physically the same artwork to the observer and the human eye detects the same wavelengths of each color, what is experienced in the mind of each individual drastically differs. What one sees as a clashing array of colors, another might see as homogeneous and harmonious. This acts as an allegory of today’s world, where there are polarizing views on multiculturalism, immigration, ethnic integration, and national identity.

Photo courtesy of Hala Al-Obaidallah

Shimagh Christmas (شماغ كريسماس ), is a tribute to the Christian Middle Eastern population, acting as a gesture of solitude. I want to showcase the diversity of the region, by taking a part of Middle Eastern culture and infusing it with Christian culture. A common misconception is that Middle Easterners, are strictly Muslims, neglecting the fact that the Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity.

Photo courtesy of Hala Al-Obaidallah

Shimagh Ajyal
The youth are making up more than 60% of the Saudi total population, which signifies an important transition and generational shift.

The artwork, Shimagh Ajyal (شماغ أجيال ) intends to fully embrace this concept via a shimagh. This reimagined shimagh acts as a visual representation of the population, showing the traditional archaic red shimagh overtaken by the fresh youthful multicolored redesign. It is a snapshot of today’s society, and it is memorabilia for future generations to reflect upon.

Shimagh Ajyal embodies a collision between generations, between an older monochromatic generation and a newer diverse one. The colorful redesign maintains the traditional shimagh’s aesthetics, but it does so in its own distinct hues. It symbolizes cultural transmission, in which the older generation, exiting society, is passing the baton to the newer generation that is adjusting traditions and customs in a manner it finds suitable—and in turn doing so for future generations, ad infinitum.

Finally, a mathematical method was devised to cover 60% of the square shimagh with the colorful redesign. Using this method, the shimagh can be easily readjusted for future iterations with different percentages.

Photo courtesy of Nora Almazrooa

Photo courtesy of Christophe Beaufays

Shimagh Series

In this ongoing series, the shimagh (شماغ)—the traditional Middle Eastern headdress—is redesigned to convey a message. Each shimagh holds a different meaning.

As for the technical aspects, the shimagh was digitally recreated and then remastered to fit each concept. Then, it is specially printed by reactive dyes onto fabric in the dimensions of a typical shimagh, to maintain the feel and allure of a traditional shimagh.

The series currently contains 5 works.

Reactive dye on poplin cotton or silk mixture
140 x 140 cm