The Burqa Issue in Of Note Magazine

Of Note Magazine offers an intersectional approach to art and activism, covering issues such as race, class, education, the prison industrial complex and sexism. Their focus—through mediums such as photographs, sculpture, video, and prose—is on using art as a template for both expression and change. From its “Impact” section on their website, Of Note says:

Through its curated issues, OF NOTE has featured over 70 Artists from 40 countries who use the arts to address social justice/human rights issues. OF NOTE’s long-form journalism authored by its roster of over 30 emerging and established internationally-based Writers has focused on how artists are:

1. addressing mass incarceration in the United States
2. responding to current immigration debates and challenging preconceived notions about immigrants
3. championing the education of girls in developing nations
4. raising awareness about indigenous communities around the world
5. bringing attention to the plight of girls caught in Colombia’s drug and gang wars and illuminating the heroic stories ofEthiopian girls who fight back against child marriage
6. documenting the plight of abandoned children with albinism in Zimbabwe
7. shedding light on the dangerous journey of migrants between the Guatemalan/Mexican border
8. combatting the culture of silence surrounding domestic violence in Indian communities
9. fighting illiteracy among the ‘Born Frees” in South Africa
10. confronting sexism in the portrayals of women and girls in the media

Of Note‘s current issue, “The Burqa“, tackles a subject most timely: the systematic oppression of minority groups in the United States and elsewhere based on religious belief, appearance, and cultural signifiers. Islamophobia runs rampant, showing itself in ways new and old, from electoral politics to the No-Fly List to targeted hate crimes. In a powerful editor’s note by Of Note founder Grace Aneiza Ali, the burqa is explored as a means of denoting identity for both wearer and oppressor.

While many employ the burqa as fodder for debate, the Artists Of Note we’ve selected for The Burqa Issue use their creative voice and art practice to examine the complicated experiences of the women who actually wear the burqa—by choice or by force. These multi-disciplinary global artists employ the burqa, actual and symbolic, in their photography, documentary film, poetry, graffiti, street art, murals, sculpture and painting, to trouble our perceptions.

While their art questions, provokes, defends, indicts, or unapologetically takes a stance for or against the burqa, it is art that is first and foremost deeply personal, before it is political. Each of these women know intimately, and at times painfully, how the world encounters women donned in burqas because they have worn them or borne witness to stories of the women they love—their mothers, sisters, aunts, matriarchs and friends—who have.

Last spring, in their “Imprisoned” issue, Of Note featured artists whose work focuses on mass incarceration and the racist and classist tendencies of the United States that set people of color up for the “school-to-prison pipeline.” It is unsurprising, then, that Randall Horton found himself the topic of discussion once again, as he has broken that mold of his own accord. A piece by Sally Ann Hard titled “Randall Horton: From Prison, to Poet, to Professor” is one of the highlights of this issue. Horton’s poem A Reoccurring Nightmare In Maximum Security” opens the essay, in which Sally Ann Hard shares her own experiences loving a man behind bars. Hard’s subsequent activism focuses on ensuring that, after release, prisoners can transition back into society with the least possible stigma.

Previous issues of Of Note can be found online.