"Islamo-Erotica": Politically Provocative or Just Plain Racy?

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Today we’re reading about the “rise of Islamo-Erotica,” a hot new art trend (!) profiled by The Daily Beast. It goes like this: the perceived nudity ban in Islamic art is attributed to a cultural taboo imposed by a conservative society, but as you can imagine, it’s a huge no-no. Some artists with Muslim roots are making borderline-sexy art with exposed skin. While we’re excited to see artists challenging a stifling social stigma, we’re left to ponder what of the profiled art has depth and what is merely cheeky. (To contrast, witness the refined body of work by Iranian ex-pat Shirin Neshat, whose oeuvre addresses the facets of a woman’s experience in Islamic society, at once deeply personal and boldly political.) See some examples after the jump and let us know what you think.

Write Betwa Sharma provides some context for the Islamic party line against nudity:

The prohibition principally stems from the taboo against entertaining sexual thoughts that a naked figure might provoke. In this light, Imam Shamsi Ali [leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York] also explains that it is “not desirable” for Muslims to view nude paintings, even if they are considered masterpieces. “Islam sees the harms of such exposure outweighing its benefits,” he says. “An artist can have an important message in his work without drawing nudes.”

The first example cited by the writer contains graphic imagery (“a charcoal and pastel drawing of blood pouring out of a woman’s vagina”) with an immediate and powerful social context (the rape of the artist Hanan Tabbara’s friend). Some other examples seem less powerful and more tongue-in-cheek:

“Islamo-Erotica” series by Iranian-American artist Makan Emadi, an atheist based in Los Angeles. Can you pick out the female celebrities she’s depicted behind the veil?

Black and what “30Y” photographs by Amir Normandi, meant to convey thirty years of tyrannical rule, symbolized by a nation (the female) being forced to dance a Tango with the regime’s agent. According to Normandi, he work “bring[s] awareness to Iranian women and their movement in reforming discriminatory laws in attaining equal status within the Iranian legal code.”

What say you, ladies and gentleman of the jury?

[via The Daily Beast]