Maïmouna Guerresi is an Italian artist who works with photography, sculpture and video installations to reflect on feminine spirituality and the position of women within society, especially focusing on North African and South Asian countries. Driven by her identity and spiritual understanding after her conversion to Islam in 1991, Maïmouna’s artistic choices and expressions continue to explore the different perceptions of ‘the body’ (as a temple of the soul) and its metamorphosis into the mystical, the metaphysical and the cosmic. The photographs shown here demonstrate her continued interest in using syncretic textiles throughout her work, as symbols, embellishments and semblances of ‘the body’.
Moving across the different cultures, Maïmouna often combines Asian-African themes with traditional western classical iconography which makes her works speak in a very personalised style. With the creation of a hybrid visual language, she communicates the discomfort and beauty of cultural diversity and multi-racial issues. Her photographic works of men, women and children wearing different mystical robes (designed by the artist), often explore ‘cultural syncretism’ and the mystical figures of Islam and their metaphorical connotations with Islamic architecture. In order to achieve the confluence of architecture, photography and surreal visions, patterned textiles and compositions play a central role in Guerresi’s photographic works. In one her interviews, Maïmouna describes the centrality of costumes and textiles in order to achieve her visions:
In my Indian works, only the hands and face, and in some cases the feet, are visible, while the body remains empty and covered with a cloak, which defines and signifies the body. This void evinces the metaphor of fear of that which is different and unknown.
Within the same body of work, I also tried to concentrate on the highest and most exposed part of the body: the head. I cover and crown the head with a series of objects in the shape of hats/minarets which are made by hand in a ritualistic manner – with simple materials and pieces of fabric collected and then composed according to the Sufi Muslim tradition of manually producing their own clothes. The minaret hats are like castles; fortresses which protect the head and, at the same time, an extension of the body itself like antennas – channels which conduct and transmit spiritual energy.
Maïmouna’s latest work ‘M-Eating’ will be exhibited by Tasveer at Art Dubai in March 2014.