I studied in England, where social mores are lax while politicians argue whether teachers and students should be allowed to wear the veil. I never considered questioning my role as a woman, my responsibility as one, or my grievances. Women are contradictory, and the duality of femininity should be celebrated.
I have been responding to my rootlessness through my work. I would fill walls with 2D installations of imagined worlds, creating and colonizing space. I had an almost childlike fascination with the possible role of the artist, her ability to ‘play God' and create her own mythologies and beliefs.
A year ago, I returned to the Middle East to try to understand my childhood a little better and explore the island of Bahrain through portraiture and conversation. I was intrigued by the lives of others and was looking to open a space for myself in Bahrain.
Kashmira is a portrait of a lady who struck me with her courage and her determination. I used to see her selling tissues on a street corner outside a mosque in Bahrain. Frail and wrapped in her hijab, I could never have imagined the story she told me as we sat by a fountain while I painted her.
Originally from Kashmir, her husband went blind after drinking dodgy liquor. They came to Bahrain for medical treatment but he died shortly thereafter, leaving her with no money, no passport, and no way to return home.
The couple had four daughters and Kashmira was determined to make them strong women with a future. She began selling tissues, and somehow managed to put all four of her daughters through university.
I asked her how she succeeded and she admitted that she had no idea. I showed her the finished drawing and she kissed my hands. She said it was the first time in years that she had looked into a mirror.