Saturday, September 14, 2013

VEILED: Exploring connections and finding meaning across time, culture, and purpose--Marjane Satrapi and me

VEILED MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.  The various combination of colors and patterns of the VEIL took my breath away. The covering up appeared a decoration, a celebration of self, fashion at its best! I did not and do not understand the function of the VEIL. (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for being authentic and open--transparent, obvious, an open book--a SOUL that everyone can see! But how about Hallelujahing the VEIL! What are the uses of the VEIL? How does the VEIL translate from the culture of Iran in the Middle East to the United States in the North West?

For many years, as an English teacher, I have been studying the VEILED female students enrolled at the Georgia Tech Language Institute where I taught for close to two decades. In recent years as these VEILED women from different countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, etc.) gathered on couches outside my office door to study, eat lunch, and converse with one another or appeared as dedicated lionesque students in my classes, my curiosity about who they might be diminished. Because....

They seemed to be women like me and other international female students but draped in VEILS.

What does the VEIL mean to me? What does it mean to these women from the Middle Eastern countries wearing VEILS as they attend classes in Atlanta, Georgia? I'm no longer sure. I do know that the "alienness" of their VEILS has worn off. 

Familiarity of the VEILS had caused me to stop drawing women in VEILS. I wonder even now if the VEIL has lost its impact on us here in this southern cosmopolitan city just as any new trending fashion becomes outdated with time.

Time! Just this week, I have read several graphic novels written and drawn by Marjane Satrapi. Her book Persepolis, an autobiography of her childhood in Iran beginning in 1979, was awarded as part of the "Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys."  I have yet to read Persepolis (Part 2), where Marjane depicts her life outside of Iran, exploring and trying on different identities in Western Europe. However, in the first book, she illustrates her response to the introduction of the VEIL in her life:

REACTIONS TO THE INTRODUCTION TO THE VEIL. (from Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis)
 ADAPTING TO THE VEIL. (from Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis)
RITUAL BEING ENACTED IN THE VEIL AT SCHOOL. (from Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis)
FLOWING BEAUTY IN THE VEIL.  In 2011, when I made this study of a VEILED student, all I cold see was vibrant flowing energy. The VEIL seems to be an accepted and valued piece of clothing. Students from Saudi Arabia tell me that they must wear black VEILS in their countries but can wear any color here in the United States.  (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Has time made a difference in the way women in Iran feel about wearing the VEIL? And in the rest of the Middle Eastern countries? Some women must wear a VEIL as their culture demands it. But for those other women--will VEILS continue to be a personal choice, not a cultural or religious one? Some women want to wear the VEIL and others do not?

What value does the VEIL have to me as a Western onlooker? I love the fabric, the ability to conceal and cover oneself if desired. I love the symbolic value of being able to "uncover" to "unveil." Think of being given the rhythm within a day as to when you "reveal" youself  and when you "hide." I have heard my students speak of this practice with a reserved delight. They get to choose who is invited to "see" and "observe" them. WOW! That's powerful.

Dear reader, I know that I have not gone into the religious reasons for why women wear the VEIL Don't you already know it? I have no strong opinion about the VEIL--only CURIOSITY!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what the VEIL means to you. 
CURIOSITY.  (art by Hallelujah Truth)


  1. What an intriguing post - your words warrant pondering, indeed, but your images are what draw me in - WONDERFUL. I am a big fan of Marjane Satrapi and her illustrating style, especially in the form of children's books that I read with my son. Plus I am beginning my own journey in intuitive painting and so I find your work very inspiring. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to receiving your post! Karen

    1. Dear Karen, I appreciate your taking the time to write a note to me regarding this blog and for signing up to get my blog entries. I especially find it kind of you to respond to my images. I often blog and post my art with this mantra: not good, not bad, just is. And often people don't seem to SEE my art. So when someone does, like you, it really rocks my world. I think we all long for having our creative expressions honored in the eyes of another. So thank you. I hope you will share your work with me.

  2. Well done Ruth and I love the questions that this blog has me ask myself. What does the veil mean to mean. Curiosity would have been my first answer too until I met and became friends with my friend Bushra whose from Pakistan. She chooses to wear her veil and we've had several conversations over tea about the fabric, how to wear it, why, etc. Of course I still struggle with acceptance for those women who are forced to wear the veil or suffer dire consequences in their home countries - for them and all persecuted people I pray for peace and choices. Aren't choices delightful? The freedom of religion, the freedom to wear a colored veil and the freedom to write blogs about topics that inspire, question and delight your readers! Well done.

    1. Yes Christine! Choices. Freedom. We experience joy when we can makes choices. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Very interesting topic - as driving to work this morning I observed a group of women jogging wearing a veil. It was just an observation! The book club for the WCAGA of art read the 2nd book and I watched the movie from the first book - I enjoyed reading it as a graphic novel, but the cultural parts of it too. I don't know if youve read Reading Lolita in Tehran, but I remember conversations about what they wore underneath that was totally theirs and totally personal decision - I found that very powerful.

  4. Oh Vickie! How wonderful for you to stop by and leave a comment on my blog! I credit you with getting me to read Marjane Satrapi's books. I had seen the movie but had not sought out her books until you chose "Embroidery" to read for WCAGA. So thank you. And yes I have read "Reading Lolita in Tehran." Teaching students who are veiled is extremely informing.