Nour has been one of my best friends for over eight years. Together we have grown from adolescents to young women. She has always provided me with a differing perspective, not only artistically but socially and culturally as well. Even though we agree on a lot and we are both queer women, we seem to fit together like ying and yang, balancing out each others opposite personalities. This project was done as a collaboration with Nour's story being the main inspiration for this shoot. Nour is a young, Queer, Muslim womxn but she is also so much more. This shoot was done to visualize the struggle she has being "torn between her culture and her identity" which is written in Arabic across her face.
"My sexuality and culture do not see eye to eye. Being an open queer Muslim woman is not accepted in my household. Losing my family, my mother and father in particular, is a severe reality that I have to face everyday I live as a queer woman. For my mother, the biggest sin is to not be heterosexual. No matter how many long conversations we have about sexuality, my mother cannot accept her child to be gay. My mom loves me, she cares for me and wants the best for me. But my mom also loves her religion, her culture, and her beliefs and the truth is my mother can’t have both. For her, Islam and her relationship with God overpowers the idea of accepting her child as queer. So it's up to me to decide how I choose to live my life as full of love and peace as I can. I don’t want to sacrifice my mother or my sexuality. Instead, I choose to make time and space in my life to both embrace who I am and love my culture and family. I may not be completely transparent with my mom about being gay or expressing my true self, but I am openly gay everywhere else that it doesn’t affect the family I love. I don’t get to be authentic and honest with my mom or feel completely safe in my culture, but I do get to love who I want and share my life with them. I may be anxious, uncomfortable, and angry at times in my life, but losing my family and mom because I choose to love my partner would weigh even heavier on me. So I am left torn between my culture and identity, and this is how I choose to live with it."
This shoot was done at Nour's mother's home, in her living room, surrounded by memorabilia and family heirlooms, many from Morocco and Algeria. Nour is dressed in a traditional Moroccan outfit from one of her mother's wedding ceremonies. The tension between a younger, open mindset and a more conservative and traditional one was quite apparent during the shoot. Her mother came in the room and commented, "Nour you look like me on my wedding day" not without adding, "except not with all of that crazy makeup." The choice of drag-like dramatic makeup was a consensus Nour and I came to by discussing how to represent her queerness. The heavy eye-liner connects to her Arab roots while the bold color and sunset effect are a means of self expression. The makeup, juxtaposed against the traditional garment externally show the dissonance Nour faces internally with her coexisting intersectional identities.