Farah Al-Qasimi: Between Two Worlds: Arab Americans in Detroit
The works of photographer Farah Al-Qasimi touch on the intricacies of life as an Arab American in Detroit, with each frame capturing both Arab and Western aesthetics. Of the 22 countries belonging to the “Arab World,” as defined by membership in the League of Arab States, seven – Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen – are prominently represented by immigrants in Metro Detroit. The Arab American community is also diverse in its religious representation, with Islam and Christianity in their Middle East iterations represented by a variety of sects and denominations including Chaldean, Coptic, Druze, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Shi’a, Sunni, and Syrian Orthodox. But the most visible component is the Arab Muslim sector in eastern Dearborn, where Arabs began arriving in earnest in the 1920s. Qasimi’s photographs explore the displacement and dislocation experienced by these people, giving a palpable sense of the hybridization of cultures and assimilation. “Dream Market” (2019) shows art of Arab American women on the walls of a supermarket, sitting above wavy mirrors that reflect distorted images of the opposite walls – “perhaps inadvertently reflecting the ongoing sense of displacement and dislocation these same women feel.” “Sally Doing Her Makeup” (2019) depicts Sally, a young fashion-conscious Iraqi woman doing her makeup, suggesting the conflict between “how we see ourselves, how we want to be seen, and how others see us.” In the words of the author, “Farah Al-Qasimi’s work brings to light the way Arab Americans negotiate life in a country where assumptions are often hostile.”
“Farah Al-Qasimi: Between Two Worlds: Arab Americans in Detroit” by Dora Apel is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 24, No. 78, 2020.
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