!n-Focus: Ibi Ibrahim & The Aphrodite of Islamism

Ibi Ibrahim, Jalsat Banat, 2013, C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 40 x 60 cm. Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim, Jalsat Banat, 2013, C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 40 x 60 cm. Courtesy: JAMM

With provocative, sensual and serene photographs illustrating male and female sensuality, lust and desire in the rolling circle of banned and forbidden or shall I use the common and most used word in Islam ‘Haram’ the depression of suppressing one’s aspiration, lonesome, consistent struggle between what you want, what your society force and anticipate. The young, American- Yemeni emerging artist, Ibi Ibrahim topped on a taboo in Middle East, sexuality.

Whether he is portraying a woman or a man, Ibrahim’s photograph reflect stories behind closed doors, and sometimes minds. In such societies, usually it is looked at women to be fiercer and braver than men when it comes to expressing their sexualities and desires, which is very obvious in the artist’s female models; the look in her eyes, body language and gesture. Whereas men to be more secretive in this matter, I did explain it before in Lara Zankoul’s, because we live in demanding societies and communities on both men and women and it forces men to always act emotionless and hide their feelings and mainly their desires… The most deep ones.  Ibrahim’s works are provocative because they trigger your subconscious; how tolerant & accepting are you with others sexual openingness? With others ultimate freedom with acts you consider wrong? Why do you believe it is wrong; religion or tradition? So who truly drives our actions and decisions; faith or habits?

In some countries in Middle East we are taught to freely express & speak out, but we remain restrained in religious matters, spirituality and social standards… Ever asked yourself who set these standards? A young girl wearing Abaya and banned from talking to boys, do you blame her if she falls in what seems to her love with the girl sitting next to her in class? Now reverse the image from girls to boys… A woman finds her momentum in lighting up her morning cigarette, that is love to her… According to you, not religion or society or peers, what is the unforbidden love?! Are you transparent and brave enough to practice it? How do you describe beauty? Dare to wear it on… Ibrahim dared not only to wear it but introduced new image of beauty, his models are flawless and the scene he captures is close to perfection, all together it’s like a realism dream, like Greek goddess; powerful, dangerous, glorious, adorn and even if sad, it’s still beautiful.

Artist Ibi Ibrahim will show for the first time selective works from different series in a solo booth at JAMM Art Gallery in Art 14, London from February 28 – March 2, 2014.

Ibi Ibrahim, Laken lematha ya Allah (But Why Oh God) 2013, C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 60 x 40 cm (each panel). Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim, Laken lematha ya Allah (But Why Oh God) 2013, C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 60 x 40 cm (each panel). Courtesy: JAMM

On view during Art14 there will be a survey of Ibrahim’s works over the past four years, highlighting the artist’s affiliation to monochromatic compositions featuring self-portraits alongside portrayals of young women and men contesting a traditional Muslim space. Photographs from Ibrahim’s highly acclaimed Social Codes series will be on display, from which his photograph Fatima (below) secured Ibrahim the 2010 GLAAD OUT Best Emerging Artist Award. Featuring two veiled women seated hand-in-hand in an intimate moment of subtle proximity; the camera seems to quietly consider the relationship of its subjects.

Ibi Ibrahim, Fatima 2,  2010, C-print (edition of 3 + 1 AP) 100 x 75 cm. Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim, Fatima 2, 2010, C-print (edition of 3 + 1 AP) 100 x 75 cm. Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim, Fatima, Social Codes collection, 2010.
Ibi Ibrahim, Fatima, Social Codes collection, 2010.

An expression of turbulent emotional upheavals was the instigator for the Sans Toi -Without you- and Nous Ne Nous Sommes Jamais Mariés -We Did Never Married- (below) Series, shot in cities around the world such as Paris, New York, and Toronto, the multiple framed images function as a story-board documenting the artist’s fears, pains, and loneliness. The artist’s candid display not only delves into the realm of emotions, but also does not shy away from his passions. In his works from the Yemeni Orgasm series, Ibrahim openly indulges in his sexual desires consciously pushing the boundaries of the inappropriate and suggesting that indulging in one’s sexual desires should not be a sin.

A selection of Ibrahim’s photographs which comment on the social and cultural state of Yemeni and Muslim women will also be on view. Photographs from the Sitara series are a clear critique of the colorless modern-day black abbaya worn in public by women in Yemen. The sitara, which is a vibrant and colorful traditional Yemeni cloth used for centuries for covering, has gradually been put aside for the supposed more modest somber attire. The sitara functioned as a symbol of individuality and pride for Yemeni women with regards to their Muslim sisters throughout the Middle East. Ibrahim’s series is a reminder of the sitara’s prevalence and place within Yemeni cultural history which should not be forgotten but instead revived.

Ibi Ibrahim Nous ne nous sommes jamais mariés 2013 C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 30 x 45 cm (each panel)
Ibi Ibrahim Nous ne nous sommes jamais mariés 2013 C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP)30 x 45 cm (each) Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim Halal 2013 C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 40 x 60 cm Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim, Halal, 2013, C-print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 40 x 60 cm Courtesy: JAMM

About the Artist

Ibi Ibrahim was born in 1987 in the United States but raised throughout the Middle East, between Yemen, Libya, Iraq and the Unites Arab Emirates. Currently lives and works in Sana’a, Yemen, Ibrahim reflects his multicultural mindset through his photography and film. While many of the pieces are based on his own life experiences, they often address controversial topics which conflict with the traditional Yemeni society from which he comes. Ibrahim’s work touches upon issues of sexuality, gender and tradition, and through his unfiltered images, he has succeeded in instigating heated discussions between Yemeni youth regarding the social and cultural effects of the widespread conservatism which has grown in his country and the region over the last forty years.

Ibi Ibrahim, Girl Moment, 2012, C print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 30 x 45 cm. Courtesy: JAMM
Ibi Ibrahim, Girl Moment, 2012, C print (edition of 5 + 1 AP) 30 x 45 cm. Courtesy: JAMM


2 Comments Add yours

  1. inaya says:

    beautiful art works, very well written article, thumbs up

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