Carwan Gallery presents "Arab Dolls" Maya, Zeina, Racha and Yara a commissioned work from Carlo Massoud, in collaboration with House of Today at the Armory Show, New York.
Carlo Massoud launched Maya, Zeina, Racha and Yara, a limited edition collection of sixty dolls rising from the ground in fifteen symmetrical rows that both captivate and challenge our traditional understanding of the feminine garment.
At first glance, the hollow objects are sleek and slick in a sea of familiar black. But a smaller collection of white dolls, each finished with a coating of gold leaf inside, disrupts the uniformity that is too often associated with the veil. The veil, which in its purest form is intended to represent modesty, has long been misconstrued and used to misrepresenting Muslim and Arab women. These wooden dolls adapt the concept of covering and concealing to a new function, material and scale. The dolls, empty from the inside, convey a sense of discretion and mystery, all while asserting individuality even in their regimented presentation. In western media, the veil has come to symbolize or justify assumptions about gender roles in the region.
Like the Arab woman, these dolls are bold and beautiful, strong and soft, evoking the emotions associated with a bullet or a thimble. Massoud’s inspiration for the dolls comes from his early friendships with four girls he had in school while growing up in Lebanon, who are Muslim, but did not wear the veil, highlighting the narrow and limiting ways in which we choose to understand and discuss the veil, and what it suggests about Muslim or Arab women in general. The designer makes a statement about the way we understand the function of objects in the Arab world and their role in sparking reflection and debate, meanwhile, paying tribute to the beauty that lies beneath the surface and challenging preconceived notions of gender roles within Arab society.