Rasha Kotaiche

https://www.instagram.com/rashakotaiche/

You have your Islam and I have mine. Our self-perception comes from our understanding of our ethnicity, nationality, class, generation and religion. As a British-Lebanese photographer I’ve been using my own experience, being a second generation migrant and minority in Britain, as the source to my intrigue in learning more about cultural identity. I started my practice in 2016 where I began learning about the difference in my nationality and ethnicity, understanding what it meant for me growing up and which place I believed I fit in more. Visiting Lebanon on numerous occasions, I travelled different areas in the country, photographing the location, culture, way of life and what ‘my Lebanon’ is. Knowing this was only the start of a long line of work, I continued on focusing on cultural identity and traveled to Kuwait in late 2017. Kuwait is the land my Paternal Grandparents chose to raise their children and grow old in. With this connection, I looked into generation and migration, focusing on my parents, photographing family, location and incorporating family archives in my publication.  You Have Your Islam And I Have Mine continues this exploration of cultural identity by focusing on religion and locality. Developing new friendships with other British-Arab women who identify as muslim, whether practicing or not, I chose to focus on their relationship with their religion, reflecting my own through similarities. Each woman has had a different upbringing, each learned a different interpretation and understand the same religion in different ways, but all share the same core spiritual beliefs.  Inshallah.                          Mashallah.                         Subhanallah.                         Alhamdulillah.  What must be will be.  You are blessed beyond belief.  The world works in mysterious ways.  Be grateful, always.   Photographing the women outdoors was a way to present them connecting with the physical world, as well as to highlight the British Landscape. Placing them into the public eye of Nottingham, being gawked at by passersby with a look of confusion as to why they’re having their photo taken, put them in two positions of emotion. Anxiety from the looks of others; the fear of judgement, potential abuse or general uncomfortability. Contentment from nostalgia, being outdoors, sun on their face, wind through their hair, surrounded by a natural landscape of beauty. I used the power of communication and conversation to get them relaxed as I photographed them, not for them to forget that they’re being photographed but for them to not overly pose. To keep it on topic, we had conversations discussing our relationship with Islam and what our experiences were like growing up in a country where the religion is a minority. My aim was to present them in a state of contentment, strength and faith in who they are.  My own narrative begins with attending a catholic school for 14 years, never having any Arab or Muslim friends, and being given the choice to truly learn about the religion by my parents; I never identified as Muslim from within but as a default identifier. As I began to meet people at Nottingham Trent university who are Muslim, at the same time as personal issues appearing, I began to take an interest in learning more and developing my own spirituality. Speaking to these girls and others, I learnt more about different ideas and opinions, progressing my own thoughts on the concept of religion.  With this being the first sector of my practice to solely focus on portraits, I began to explore my development of the genre through the use of different mediums and styles; from using the studio and attempting self portraits to using different medium format and digital cameras, playing with colour and black and white, trying styles from documentation to fashion. I found that a structured documentation, where I chose the location and the clothing and asked the model where to stand and pose, worked best for this series. As religion can often be a sensitive topic in this current political climate, I felt it best to present the woman simply and overtly as to not misrepresent or solely focus on a stereotypical looking muslim woman.  Although the colour copies of the images highlighted the British Landscape more, the use of black and white brought the connection between model and location, where the atmosphere is more prominent through the lack of colourful distraction; we begin to focus on the facial and body expression more than we do on the landscape. The aim for this series is to focus on each woman individually and learn from the way they present and hold themselves naturally. With many second generation migrants going through similar struggles of learning and developing, proving that there can be a connection between them and this land, starts a conversation about the issues and pressures faced from family, peers and the public.

Venue- Backlit

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