Born in 1982 in Tripoli, Arwa Abouon never knew the hot wind of the Libyan desert or the suffering of a people wounded by wars. Her family soon moved from Libya to Canada. Raised in a multi-cultural environment and always interested in dialogue between cultures and religions, she graduated from in Design, Art and Photography.
The young artist explores the conflicting identities that inhabit her world: gender issues, religious experiences, traditions and modernity. Interviewed about the representation of the veil in her works, the young Libyan artist explained that her photographs are not meant to participate in a political debate, but rather an ethical, spiritual one: “I think religion has the power to heal an individual; true religious practice gives rise to moderate actions in all aspects of our existence.”
In I’m Sorry/I Forgive You, Sorry Mama (2012), Abouon photographs her ailing father, affectionately caressed by his wife. A chaste kiss on the forehead, is a shot to immortalize a deep love, a gesture stolen from the intimacy of the elderly couple to testify to the indissoluble bond that has united them throughout their lives. “Seeing an elderly Muslim couple embracing and kissing was something I wanted to emphasize […], I wanted to show the viewer the immense love they had for each other, especially since it contrasts with media representations of the Islamic world.”
The artist inserts the profile of the parents into a pattern that evokes the geometric decorations of mosques. The whiteness of the background encloses the monumentality of a simple and solemn family gesture. Enriched by the typical ornaments of places of prayer, the work celebrates fidelity and love as the highest form of worship that can be rendered to God. In the double mirror portrait there is a message of equality and equal dignity that needs no explanation. Unlike the usual images of political Islam portrayed daily in the world’s media, Abouon’s work is intended to be a poetic celebration of the foundations of her faith.
The young Libyan-Canadian artist’s life ended abruptly: at the age of 38, she passed away in the arms of her loved ones. Her existence was a magical journey. Her art remains a testimony to freedom, a cry of life, a pale and mild light in a world still blinded by fundamentalism and divisions.
Libyan Painter Muhammad Al Barudi from Arwa Abouon on Vimeo.