Yafa and Rachel - exhibition
Artist Rachel Gadsden (left) and project lead Yafa Shanneik at the exhibition

On Wednesday 8 August 2018, the British Institute in Amman held an exhibition showcasing art created by Syrian women who have found refuge in Germany, the UK and Jordan.

The art was created in collaboration with University of Birmingham academic Dr Yafa Shanneik and internationally renowned artist Dr Rachel Gadsden, who was assisted by Palestinian artist Amna Ali Hussein. The exhibition also featured an excerpt from “All at Sea”, a live painting and music performance created by Rachel and composer Freddie Meyers. The exhibition is part of Yafa's on-going project on Reconsidering Muslim marriage practices in Europe: the case of Iraqi and Syrian war-widows, funded by the British Academy and the Council for British Research in the Levant.

The project examines how Muslim marriage practices assist Syrian and Iraqi refugee women in negotiating their identities and senses of belonging through shaping social relations, challenging religious boundaries and facilitating community belonging and integration within their new diasporas in Germany, the UK and Jordan. This project focuses in particular on Muslim marriage and divorce practices among Iraqi and Syrian refugees in these three countries. The aim of the project is to examine the complexities around reconstructing and redefining different Muslim marriage forms and their consequent divorce regulations within various Iraqi and Syrian refugee communities as performed and lived out in their diasporas in Germany, the UK and Jordan.

As part of the project Yafa conducted interviews with 144 Syrian and Iraqi refugee women in Germany, the UK and Jordan. Rachel led eight art workshops in Germany, the UK and Jordan with these refugee women, using the body mapping technique, an artistic tool for creating life-sized images that traces the contours of the individual’s body. This research technique was used in this project to investigate the women’s process of displacement, loss, war and instability marking, through handprints and personal narratives, the physical and psychological impact their displacement and marriage and divorce experiences had on them. Through body mapping techniques women were able to counter gender-based narratives of fragility and vulnerability and develop narratives of strength, courage and empowerment to overcome societal patriarchal control, secular as well as religious legal limitations and the social stigma and stereotypes posed on them more generally. The artworks created in these workshops were showcased in the exhibition.

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Yafa Shanneik: y.shanneik@bham.ac.uk.

One of the pieces of artwork shown at the exhibition.

Exhibition image 1