Home Pop Culture Behind the Veil, Sexuality in the Middle East.

Behind the Veil, Sexuality in the Middle East.

"Arabesque II"

Fueled by an innate love and interest in learning about other cultures, George Lewis attended a same-sex boarding school for twelve years. He notes: “It was largely responsible for why I was so successful in going to the Middle-East and getting people to reveal something of themselves.” Rigorously strict, boys caught canoodling with girls on school premises were expelled. Boys caught having sex with boys, however, were let off! Such circumstances have tamed Lewis into “not [being] frightened with dealing with the gamut of sexuality, or cultural civilization,” and we see this through some of his more controversial works. Addressing grave obesity, explicit nudity and a transsexual Christian convert, Lewis’ preoccupation with the human condition upward spirals up through the telescopic lens of sophisticated complex sexualities.

In particular, the “Cross Dresser” tetrarch features four pieces on a secretly gay 26-year old male, who was being forced to marry a year later. Dancing privately in his sister’s abbayah, Lewis intimately captures a young man’s dancing through opaque veils. Concealment, his second nature, is made evident by the fact that he dances most comfortably from concealed and isolated. An electrifying ironic paradox, double standards infuse the veil symbol with textures and possibility. Shed like skin in private, Arabian women cleverly transcend the subservience too commonly attached to the burqa or niqaab. Little do they know, however, that the men for whom they save their hair, skin and body borrow and buy their own veils to bring home. Substantiating men’s lives, either physically or metaphorically, it is fear and shallowness, and not the fabric of the veil that ought to be lifted and denounced.

Veil coverings signify freedom and anonymity for some and concealment or protection for others. Utter necessity to the fearfully closeted, women have found fashionable ways to publicly embody their sexuality, without foregoing sacred custom. Had the dancer, whose sculpted body ironically appears more masculine than the beach studs’, been rich, “he’d be dancing for the London’s Ballet National,” says Lewis.

Exploring the duality of the public versus the private realms, peculiar to men and women of Qatar, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, Lewis highlights the shortcomings of sympathy. A mere product of pity, “sympathy denotes fear,” he articulates. Anything fearful criticizes, and “I am not here to criticize, but to empathize.” Empathy carves far deeper paths of communion than sympathy, intonates the poet-philosopher at heart. It is the ‘the pure product of knowledge, nuance and calmness.’ Lewis’ photography informs his painting, but research, introspection and linguistic maps lay their course and foundations.




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