Re-claiming the Lost Home: The Politics of Nostalgia and Belonging in Women’s Art Practices in the Middle East

Journal article


Photiou, M. 2023. Re-claiming the Lost Home: The Politics of Nostalgia and Belonging in Women’s Art Practices in the Middle East. Image & Text. 37, pp. 1-24. https://doi.org/10.17159/2617-3255/2023/n37a17
AuthorsPhotiou, M.
Abstract

Despite the major changes that have taken place in the West following the interventions of the second-wave feminism, women from the Middle East are still affected by the politics of patriarchy, nationalism and militarism. The enduring armed conflict in the region has left scars on the society and its people. Although both men and women have to flee and live in exile, little is known about the experiences of women. Women’s experiences of exile is different to men’s due to their specific exilic conditions, which is impacted by the demands of social, political and cultural conditions.

This paper explores the work of contemporary women artists who challenge in their practice the concepts of ‘home’, ‘exile’, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘belonging’. It will specifically discuss the work of refugee Greek Cypriot artist Klitsa Antoniou and Arab American artist Andrea Shaker. Both artists use domestic materials to create distressing scenes that re-create domestic environment(s) of their contested homes.

It will analyse Klitsa Antoniou’s 2002 installation A Wall of Roses, in which she uses household objects as powerful devices to re-negotiate the post-1974 war trauma in Cyprus. The paper will discuss how the mundane household objects (plates, pans, tables, iron, scissors, knives) are transformed into reminder-instruments that act as metaphors of trauma and nostalgia for the lost home. Her usage of uncanny domestic utensils challenges the viewers to not forget her ancestral home. The work presents the ordinary utensils as disoriented objects that bear remembrance – a strategy used extensively by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum.

The paper will also explore the 2012 video work of Andrea Shaker home.not home, in which she employs her own migratory experience to re-create her ancestral home. Shaker is influenced by the conflicts in the Middle East, particularly those of her homeland Lebanon. The paper will examine and analyse the complexities and multiple meanings of re-constructing the migrant experience of ‘home’: home as the dwelling for individual and family histories; home as the place of comfort, domestic tensions and trauma.

In constructing visual works that explore the interconnection between home, exile, nostalgia and belonging, Antoniou and Shaker are using artistic strategies to reclaim their lost homeland. Both artists use ordinary material to re-create a distressing domestic environment for the audience; these strategies are generated through the usage of household utensils and traditional Middle Eastern food. Through visual analysis of the works, this paper will provide a new perspective in understanding women artists’ artistic strategies in representing the exilic home and their homeland (both ‘lost’ and existing).

KeywordsUncanny; home; exile; migration; belonging; nostalgia
Year2023
JournalImage & Text
Journal citation37, pp. 1-24
PublisherUniversity of Pretoria
ISSN2617-3255
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.17159/2617-3255/2023/n37a17
Web address (URL)https://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1021-14972023000100017&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en
Publisher's version
License
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online2023
Publication process dates
Deposited15 Jan 2024
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