INTERVIEW WITH NATASHA DICKENS
Natasha Dickens reading HABARI newspaper, were the interwiev was first published
DA: What do you paint?
Having being born a Muslim, although not a practicing one, I decided to incorporate Islamic Studies and the issue of veiled women as my thesis and main subject matter at university. I found inspiration in one of my favourite artists, Shirin Neshat and her haunting images depicting tension, feminimity and the veil. The veiled woman is a powerful figure layered with complexities, mystery, dualism/ contradictions and controversy. We are forbidden to look at her yet she draws our attention/ gaze.
Although Islam is now directly associated with the Veiled woman, if we remember the Christian nuns, of present and past, , early European women, who also covered their heads, and even today, Christian brides do the same. Covering your head - why? is it preserving purity, protecting the head/thoughts from the elements? As I understand it, in Islam it sprung from the arab communities living in the desert, protecting themselves against the fierce natural elements. Unfortunately it has become an excuse to cover up of women's sexuality, the face, the hair, sometimes even the eyes.
DA: Why do you paint it?
I have found it difficult to portray her in my paintings because it is taboo. This of course made for a more exciting experience. One realizes the many spectrums involved with painting her, objectifying her not only by looking at her - but also during the process of capturing her image two dimensionally and finally by providing her representation for the masses' gaze. She no longer has control, or does she? My paintings try and infuse her power within the image. The viewers find it, intriguing, even difficult to look at the paintings, the eyes staring back being quite powerful.
DA: Comparison between Europe and Tanzania/ how they receive the work/ perceive the work?
Europeans are too far away from Islam, very few have an informed opinion, let alone an understanding of the society. The paintings there, were not as shocking, not as powerful, due to the lack of experience. At the same time people found them extremely interesting, and this is due to the fact that it is an image that is not available in their every day life, it is uncommon, rare.
Tanzania is a very conservative country consisting of 40% Christian 40% Muslim population. Art is growing very slowly. People are very respectful and sensitive with religious issues. So up to now I have not really shown this work here. A few individuals that had the chance to see them were not happy. I am looking forward to the day that I will be able to show the paintings without being concerned about getting in trouble. I would like people to receive them well, even if they don't like they dislike them. For the time being Tanzania is not there yet, but we are slowly and surely, with determination and perseverance, going to create a positive future for all of Art.
Author: Daniel Augusta