About the Image: Sama Alshaibi

Sama Alshaibi reflects on the headdress her and her mother created together, as well as the historical influence and motivation behind the image, Headdress of the Disinherited, 2004 (published in Nueva Luz 12#1)

Portrait of the Disinherited, 2004.
Portrait of the Disinherited, 2004.

In commemoration of Al Nakba (66 years later), my mother asked me to post this older photograph of mine. I made the hat worn in this photo, in collaboration with my mother. That hat is a sculptural memorial to the exile of 800,000+ Palestinians who fled their homes due to the ensuing war when the state of Israel was created in 1948, known to Palestinians as Al Nekba.

The copper coins were once Palestinian currency and now etched with the visa stamps from my family passports. The hat references the Wuqayat al-durahem, or Smadeh , a “money hat”. This hat was historically presented to Palestinian women engaged to be married as either part of the “bride-price“ or dowry. Wedding headdresses were once an essential part of a Palestinian woman’s attire and a cherished belonging. Few headdresses remained intact after the 1948 war; Palestinian monies were no longer minted and families used the coins, one by one, to survive difficult times.

By substituting the no longer minted Palestinian currency with the markings of visas passport stamps, passport pictures and immigration/naturalization documents collected from my family in exile, I am speaking to the inheritance of an intellectual dowry, the stories of our heritage and culture, without the experience of the events that fundamentally define it.

I also am conceptually alluding to the inheritance of exile and displacement. When you belong to a people without a home, or a home that you are not allowed to reside in, your home is an idea. The hat, and the photographs, serve as a temporal and yet temporary memorial, a makeshift memorial that can be transferred, reshaped, reconstructed and re-imagined in its memory of those exiles who are in a continual state of temporary until they are allowed back to their homes in Palestine. 

–Sama Alshaibi, May 16, 2014

For those of you in love with the blending of photography and culture, subscribe to Nueva Luz HERE so it comes directly to your mailbox three times per year.

Sama’s work was published in Nueva Luz (order that issue HERE), and featured in our Touring Gallery exhibition alongside Myra Greene at Umbrella Arts in 2008.

Learn more about Sama Alshaibi here, and at www.samaalshaibi.com

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