The Womanhood Issue

The Emirati Artist Tackling Social Norms

Precautions tackles a subtheme of womanhood that differs from those Hamdan has explored before.

By Sharifah Alhinai

Image from Precautions by Emirati artist Maitha Hamdan, which was exhibited at Abu Dhabi’s Warehouse421 as part of Banat Collective’s As We Gaze Upon Her Exhibition. Image courtesy of Maitha Hamdan.

In her latest video-recorded performance piece, Emirati multidisciplinary artist Maitha Hamdan is captured licking a vanilla ice cream cone from behind a long pink veil that drapes her entire body, including her face, while a jingle that is used by ice cream trucks is played. The process of devouring the ice cream through the veil is a bewildering act to see, but that is exactly its intention.

Emirati artist Maitha Hamdan. Image by Marta Lamovesk.

Titled Precautions, the work tackles ‘mainstream social norms and the boundaries of a simple act like eating an ice cream, and its effect on women’s behaviour amidst males,’ the 29-year-old artist explains. The devourment of the ice cream – an act considered, in the eyes of some, lascivious when made by women – is a way of ‘restaging gendered norms, repeated, reinforced and remediated as a radical, satirical and pictorial performance,’ reads the curatorial statement accompanying the work.The performance piece was inspired by memories of an ice cream shop that Hamdan and many girls of her age group used to visit as children in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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