Lamia Maria Abillama’s show at the Galerie Tanit called “Clashing Realities” consists of photographs about women dressed in military uniform in their homes. The exhibition is set in the context of the civil war in Lebanon and focuses on the experience of women. They are conditioned to stay at home, hoping for the best as their husbands or sons are fighting in the warzones.
The firm expressions on the women in the photographs represent somehow the scapegoats of the violent repercussions of the Lebanese Civil War. The status of women during wars is paradoxical: they are powerless in their restriction to the household and yet they suffer the most.
In this clashing and brutal reality, Abillama attempts to masculinize this status quo, hence, the military uniform and the firm facial expressions. This leaves me asking whether or not the artworks are feminist. Under her lens, Abillama captures the suffering women in the privacy of their homes, waiting, contemplating, and grieving.
To me, the presence of military uniforms is not breaking the gendered social norms but reinforcing them. In my analysis, the photographs seem to imply that a woman’s warzone is her own domesticity or at least, it has to be. Also, wearing the uniform in a household may represent the recognition of women by the men in the family.
Yet, one photograph particularly contradicts that. It portrays an old woman in military pants standing between the branches of a tree. This situation proves to be unusual, new, and almost disturbs the social construct that expects women to weep and grieve. Abillama is beautifully disrupting the view of women as symbols of lyricism and desperation. The old lady certifies resistance and attacks.
In general, the artist’s exhibition is a reinforcement of a gendered notion through the normalization of women’s domesticity during the brutality of the Lebanese civil war. Thereby, Lamia Maria Abillama’s show is neither feminist nor sexist per se.
In a way, it is purely realistic. It mimics the social context of the war, where women are inherently forced to abide by the constructs of their gender.