To many in the Western world, a veil over a woman’s face is an affront to her and all others around her.
But we should not so quick to judge, says Dr. Daina Nathaniel, an associate professor of communication at Queens University of Charlotte. Many women choose to have their faces covered, she says, and that choice should be respected, even celebrated.
In that spirit, Nathaniel has created a series of acrylic paintings inspired by photographs she discovered of veiled women around the world. Her work will be shown at Queens in an exhibition that opens Oct. 24 as part of the university’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“I believe that all women possess essential beauty that is only highlighted when they can freely express themselves,” Nathaniel says. “Many people have condemned the wearing of veils in the Muslim community, equating it to another form of oppression. However, I think we all know that women around the world are oppressed in a myriad of ways, veil notwithstanding.”
Nathaniel often teaches about the intersection of culture and communication at the James L. Knight School of Communication on the Queens campus. She began work on her art series nearly two years ago. She has created 22 portraits to date.
“In many ways, my paintings reflect my scholarly interest in culture, diversity in all of its forms, community, human interaction, and appreciation of difference,” she says.
Most pieces include a butterfly, Nathaniel says, a symbol of power and transformation in many cultures. The eyes of all of her subjects are closed, to evoke a sense of peace.
“I am hoping that many people come to see them and are moved by their quiet confidence.”