“We Are Here. We Exist.”
“Guerilla art is the surreptitious, and often sudden, creation or installation of unauthorized public art, often with the purpose of making an overt political statement.” –conceptTshirts.co.uk 2010
Since 1989 the wearing of hijaab and other overtly religious symbols has been a much debated topic in France, causing many public protest and riots. In 2003 the wearing of religious coverings of any type was banned in public schools. Later in 2004 a ban on hate-speech and large public religious symbols was passed meeting with much disapproval from an international human rights organization, Amnesty International. Most recently, on January 25, 2010, the parliamentary committee announced a recommended ban on religious symbols in hospitals, police stations, other public buildings. Enter Princess Hijab, a guerilla artist that has been “hijabizing” the streets of Paris since 2006. Her work is dynamic, and highly sociopolitical.
Princess Hijab mainly travels around the subway and bus system of Paris at night targeting prominent advertisements. Occasionally she makes her own posters, flags, or sets up mannequins. Regardless of her medium, her preferred being a black paint marker, her work is always well-lit, guarded, and highly public. This adds to the dynamic nature of her art. She always chooses advertisements where the subjects are in bold poses or stances. Muscles are usually displaying tension or rigidity and the lighting is always in cool tones bringing the subject away from the background. Her targets are usually highly air-brushed giving a clean, polished appearance that further draws the subject out along with their copious amounts of exposed flesh. Princess Hijab uses flat flat black pigment to cover these subjects faces and often a fair portion of their torso as well leaving negative space in both the bright backgrounds and the flat blackness of the hijaabs. This serves to separate the viewer from the subject. The dynamic effect of her art isn’t only the separation of the subject from the viewer by covering the subjects face but also the dripping paint extending from the majority of the hijaabs she paints. This gives the effect of being doused, drenched, providing the feeling that this was done TO the subject and not BY them. At the same time this contrasts with the bold poses, cool lighting, and air-brushed look the advertisements are displaying. The effect is both highly striking and highly sociopolitical.
It is no accident that Princess Hijab’s main focus is hijaab in the tumultuous time in France. She her work is a powerful statement not only empowering many women who choose to wear hijaab but also the French laws against large religious symbols as well as bold revealing advertisements in a time where religion can scarcely be expressed. This is evident in her very first piece under the persona of ‘Princess Hijab’ titled “We Are Here. We Exist.” and perhaps one of her most famous a flag constructed from the side profiles of three smiling women in a blue, white, then red hijaab, the colors of the French flag. Her statements are furthered by her black dripping hijaabs placed over advertisements. It’s as if the completed work was saying “This was done to me, this isn’t about me, but yet I will stand strong.” It is creating a powerful commentary about the law banning hijaab. It’s saying “you can do this to us, you can ban hijaab, but we are still strong,”
The sociopolitical commentary and the striking dynamic contrast in her work stands sharply against France’s current policies towards “hate-speech” and public religious symbols. Both public and overt it speaks to the it cannot be avoided by the passersby. Essentially it provides a role model or icon for religious citizens, political activist, and artist alike to identify with as well as inspiring deeper thought into both politics and advertising.