Project FUEL is an organization founded in 2009 with a mission to document the wisdom and stories of common people through interactive means.
In 2016, the Project FUEL team went on a 90-day tour in Europe to document life lessons of people affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. During this tour, we met a young Syrian girl, Sarah, who was called a terrorist for wearing a hijab. Inspired and provoked by Sarah’s story, the founder of Project FUEL, Deepak Ramola, curated a series of artworks using the hashtag #UnderTheHijab.
Here’s the anecdote Sarah shared with Deepak.
Sarah, a young Syrian girl by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL
Deepak recalls, "A slice of her life, a life under the hijab, did not deserve judgement and prejudice rather understanding and appreciation. I was provoked and inspired to voice the discomfort Sarah shared during our conversation with the world."
"As I sat on my flight back to India," Deepak continues about his experience, "contemplating over the disturbing insights I had heard and read, I created an artwork of a faceless woman wearing a hijab, in an ode to Sarah. Once I was home and put it up online, tagging fellow artists to share their interpretations, the series ‘Under The Hijab Is…’ was born. It organically grew as an artists’ collective that aims to break the stereotypes related to those who wear a Hijab. The tool of art, at its very core, draws upon its power of stirring a revolution in changing mindsets."
The stereotypical image many people have of hijab-wearing women is that of a female wrapped in black cloth from head to toe. But there is so much more to it than that. "I have had hijab-clad girls and women as my friends all my life and they are as cool and smart and adventurous as anyone I know!" comments Deepak.
The responses submitted by other artists to Project FUEL were powerful. Each art piece in the series brings with itself a unique perspective and a striking impact — each artist infuses through the medium of either illustration or painting to express their voice and vision. The creations are as unique as the creators.
Scroll down to view some of the artworks created for the series by 12 artists and to uncover what they believe under the Hijab is…
Artist Afrah Aamer contemplates: "People assume that the veil is oppressing. But they consider only the physical appearance as 'hijab' which is not the whole picture. Hijab is a characteristic defining modesty for some, it may mean different to different people but its aspects are not only physical.
"Hijab teaches one how to live with confidence, and with it, portray one's colours with true meaning. Under the Hijab are different people with different colours, some are red- passionate, deterministic and hardworking; some are white- pure, and truthful; some are black- sophisticated and elegant. Under the Hijab, people are rainbows with different colour schemes.
"Classifying all these variations as one doesn't do justice to what they really are: patterns and colours – each and every one unique, just as everyone else. The only difference is while you paint your canvas out in the open, they have crafted a masterpiece within."
Sarah’s life lesson was simple, “Don’t hate what’s strange.” An art piece like this by Ardita Das propels the message further. The artist shares, "Over the past two years, I have looked at the Hijab and the Burqa, as an artifact of historical and cultural importance. Right from the day I picked up Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis to photoshopping smartphones into archived Persian miniatures, the hijab never struck me as something oppressive to these women but rather a choice – of preserving a small part of one's ancestry. I have massive respect for the women who continue to wear the hijab despite the questions and judgements that follow it in such politically driven times!"
Artist Arjun Paul notes: "Belief, that an ideology that has existed nearly for millennia and a half will not succumb to bigotry. There is a belief that the hijab is a tool for the oppression of women in Islam while arguments have been put forth for its utilitarian uses. The hijab as a veil is used by Muslim women, not to assert male superiority and hide the ‘lesser’ sex. A hijab is worn by a Muslim woman as a matter of honour; for it affirms that she is sacred, valued and a manifestation of the Divine Beauty."
#UnderTheHijab is a personality.
By Josh Worrall
Deepak adds, "I was particularly blown away by this art piece contributed by the UK based artist, Josh Worrall. At first glance, his artwork looks like a graphic illustration, but upon further observation, you suddenly realize the entire piece is created out of dots — specks of humanity coming together to form this painting, this statement. I was struck by the sheer passion he had to get this painting done — that he felt impassioned to say something."
On the artwork, the artist Josh Worrall shares, "This is Kiki, a girl from Indonesia with whom I had the pleasure of working in New York with World Merit. Not only is she one of the most charming, funniest and coolest people I have ever met, but she was also chosen to represent SDG 14:Life Below Water at the UN."
The artist Kitty Ritig wrote a poetic piece accompanying the artwork:
you may know,
you don't know,
you don't know yet...
not the same
With time and eyes
and some more time
Then you will see
not the same
never the same...
And with eyes
and some more eyes
you will see
similar to yours
different from yours...
But not the opposite
Rarely the opposite
#UnderTheHijab is the universe of diversity.
By Laila Vaziralli
Artist Laila Vaziralli shares, "Here is my version of the faceless hijab, I have always found it fascinating how humans don't quite like diversity, but yet are inherently as diverse as the stars in the sky. Now, wouldn't it be terribly boring if we all wore a beret?"
#UnderTheHijab is contemporary and forever.
By Mohna Singh
Artist Mohna Singh voices: "'Terror' has no face, race or creed. The term in itself could be anything that leaves you terrified, dumbstruck and damaged. It doesn't always come with a warning sign, but sometimes it does! One's got to be a lil' forthcoming and not pick on every woman in 'hijab', for all you care it could be your next elected leader!"
Artist Naquiyah Attarwala puts out, "It could be one of us, and still do everything. Let's celebrate together and live every moment without branding each other."
#UnderTheHijab is beauty inside and out!
By Nooreen Lallmamode
Artist Nooreen Lallmamode shares her thoughts, "Everyone is unique in their own way. Do not let circumstantial details like age, clothes, gender and status define you or judge people around you. Everyone has a different story, recognise it and celebrate it!"
#UnderTheHijab is endurance.
By Poornima Sukumar
The artist Poornima Sukumar says, “May the stigma disappear like smoke in thin air! I have shared such beautiful conversations with so many friends who wear a Hijab, I have noticed most of them being so kind and endearing!"
#UnderTheHijab is Power.
By Sadhna Prasad
Artist Sadhna Prasad adds, "No one should be defined by their attire. Each human being holds within them incredible power to create, invent, learn and unlearn."
In art abides grace. It has the tools to say the harshest things in a polite way, and yet create a mass impact. Vidhya Shree emphasizes through her piece that, "Hijab is freedom, not oppression. 'It is not the cloth that oppresses women, it is the illiterate mind.' Fashion is not just about beauty, it's also about the expression of self. If a woman feels as though wearing the hijab represents her faith and her choice, then she should be free to do so without judgement."
Through this selection, Deepak notes, "It is my greatest hope that this series, at its very core, is able to raise awareness about the beauty of hijab and the perspectives women who wear them have about it. May this series crack open the space for inclusiveness by highlighting the beauty of diversity. May it inspire others to use their art, their paintbrushes, and their creativity to express their voices to break down stereotypes."
Deepak Ramola is an educator and poet based in India. He founded Project FUEL in 2009 with a mission to document the wisdom and stories of common people through interactive means.
Explore more stories covered by the team here and here.
Disclaimer: #UndertheHijab is an artistic effort to shine light upon the prejudice and challenges faced by women who wear a hijab. Each artwork draws its inspiration from the personal interactions and experiences of the artist. The views or opinions expressed herein are those of the artists; they do not necessarily represent those of Google Arts and Culture. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. It is also not to defame or disregard anyone's personal decision or identity. The intent is to create a safe and inclusive space with awareness and empathy.