Sign of the Times: A Photo Essay

Scenes of Abu Dhabi, UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young masked men play pool outside Madinat Zayed. Others seem to be selling fake designer clothes in an illicit secondhand market. A lone man in a polo shirt has erected jumping castles to make extra cash outside the Gold Center. The castles are deserted. He listens to something on his phone, absorbed with all the intensity of the clouds gathering above. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — must continue to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

Laborers in the city must continue to earn money. Juice shops, cafeterias, carpet sellers, cobblers, tailors, honey vendors…all remain. They sip tea in their shops, trying to sell. In 48 hours, they will have to pack up and stay home for two weeks. Almost everyone on the street is masked. Small cigarettes and “massage cards” lie motionless on the pavement. Malayalam, French, Urdu, Wolof, Bengali: all the languages of the streets, of the working class, dance. They filter through masks and mix with the air like steam rising from the chai at Happy Cafeteria. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — must continue to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

Small groups of young West African men swap cigarette boxes, thin rolls of money, and bottles of hand sanitizer as they congregate outside an apartment building. I try not to look. I, girl with the zooming camera and lens-corrected eyes, am looked at. I stumble upon a shop called MASK FASHION nearby. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — continues to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

 

 

Vamika Sinha is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of Postscript. Find more of her photography here.

Tracing Identities by Tóia Azevedo

“No models were harmed in the making of this collage”, mixed media collage

Tóia Azevedo’s main artistic research is on the concept of identity. She uses her own body to make this search: in self portraits, mixed media collages, embroidery, performance. Additionally, she likes to look at the faces of the strangers she sees in magazines, and imagine what stories lie behind them. Who are these people? What can their features tell us about them? And about us? And about Azevedo herself?

In the following works, Azevedo has burned some faces to show what lies behind a perfect pair of model’s eyes: some could say that it’s an act of uprising against our society’s ruthless beauty standards, a kind of revenge against the perfection persisting in the spotlight. By burning, Azevedo takes away their identity or showcases things that we don’t usually see in them. She has used embroidery to draw facial features from people she doesn’t know under a thin layer of tracing paper: the result is some confused lines that we identify as human faces. It is a projection of the real humans under the paper as if they are immersed in dim waters.

Finally, Azevedo has covered herself in pink organza fabric in an attempt to hide her body as a sacred unseen goddess – but it isn’t enough. She is forced to trace the lines which both shape and imprison her at the same time. It’s all about lines, really. It’s all about finding maps, locations and therefore, identities in the body’s features. What all these works have in common is the necessity of finding unknown places, hidden identities, that one would not be able to see if there wasn’t any kind of burning or hiding or covering of the lines.

“No models were harmed in the making of this collage”, mixed media collage
“No models were harmed in the making of this collage”, mixed media collage

 

“Tracing Identities”, mixed media collage
“Tracing Identities”, mixed media collage

 

The High Priestess, self-portrait mixed with embroidery

 

Tóia Azevedo lives in São Paulo, Brazil, where she currently studies Visual Arts at São Paulo State University (UNESP). She works with portrayals of her own body in space, time and society. Tóia’s research involves goddesses and primordial feminine elements and how they manifest in our era. Some of her media includes photography, collage and embroidery, ceramics, performance, painting and poetry.

The Eyepatch Man

Inspired by true events

Vienna, 2018
Today, I am a man who stands behind a subway stop. I have been this man before. He wears layers of clothes and lugs his belongings in a two-wheel mesh cart that grandmothers use for carrying groceries. This man wears a beanie because he’s afraid his ears will get frostbite. He wears fingerless gloves and shiny business shoes. None of that is very important. His favourite item is a pair of aviator sunglasses with the left lense popped out. People can see one eye and not the other. It is his halfway mask. It is a pirate patch.

I see the pigeons behind the subway stop. They squabble and peck each other. I laugh when someone walks by and they flurry up in panic. Have you ever seen a baby pigeon? Sometimes I think these birds multiply using cell division. One pigeon divides into two. That’s why some of them are so big: they’re about to divide. I see a toddler waddle into a flock of them. He squeals when they fly up and he runs towards me without realizing I’m sitting here. His mittens are attached to the sleeves of his coat and his nose is red. I smile at him and he stares at me with uncertain eyes. I can speak to him without saying anything. Come here. Come talk to me and be my friend. The mother scoops him up and they take the train away.

I am the eyepatch man. He stands behind the subway stop and sometimes he shares his sandwich with the pigeons. Most people don’t notice him until he wants to be noticed. He’s a good hider. It’s nighttime now and the pigeons are gone. I see two girls walking to the bus stop close by. They are laughing and speaking in English with fake British accents. The eyepatch man has a British accent and speaks English too.

He likes these girls. They are wearing good clothes. One of them has black curly hair and is wearing black boots with heels. The other one is wearing a purple hat and white sneakers. They have a backpack and a small suitcase. They have different skin colors. He wants them to feel pretty. 

I can walk all the way up to them without them seeing me because they are talking to each other so carelessly. They have nice laughs.
The eyepatch man has no money, so he asks them for help. They seem like nice girls.
“Hello, ladies. Spare any change? I need to make a call.”
They both have startled eyes like that toddler from before. They shift towards each other. Babies. Baby girls.
The one with the hat speaks first. “I don’t have any cash,” she smiles, uncertain.
The other one is quick to follow. “Me neither, sorry.”
The eyepatch man is kind. He understands. “Of course, I was just asking.”

He walks back to the phone booth where his mesh cart is hidden. The babies are talking to each other from the corners of their mouths. He doesn’t like that. They’re saying rude things about him. Teach them. Teach them manners. He takes his cart and returns to stand beside them. They stop talking again. He smiles. He can see them through one lens and one normal eye.

“Where are you two from?”
They look at each other. “Canada,” and “India,” slip from their pretty mouths.
The eyepatch man wants to tell them how rude they are to not ask where he is from, but I hold him back. They’re babies after all. They don’t know better. Yet.

The bus arrives and I push the button so that the doors slide open. I sweep my arm for them to go first because the eyepatch man is a gentleman. The bus is empty and he wants them to sit down with him but they stand beside the door. These are the rudest girls I’ve ever met. I could teach them to be polite. I have some things in this cart for teaching lessons like that.

They don’t know, but I can see their faces in the reflection of the bus window. The one with the curly hair has a face like a stone. She is paler than before. The one with the hat has eyebrows that point up and big worried eyes. She’s talking a lot. I don’t like that. The one with the curly hair grabs her wrist and she stops talking. The bus stops and neither of them move. The bus is about to lurch forward when the one with curly hair lunges forward and punches the button to open the doors. They both get off the bus. It’s too late to follow. They turn and see me through the glass. I glare at them as the bus moves on. I smash my fist against the side of the bus until my hand is bruised.

Today I am walking around Vienna. I see a pigeon limping on the sidewalk. I make soft cooing noises so that it lets me come close. I lift my cart and bring it down on the bird’s back. There is a delicious crackle. I thump the cart down again. I hear the bird bones break and the blood spilling out. Teaching manners. When I’m done I cradle the feathers and other goop in my hands and place it in a nearby bin. Manners.


Today I am a man who drives for Uber. I have been this man before. He lives in a neat apartment with an old cat. He wears a baseball cap and has dice hanging in his rearview mirror.

 

 

Artwork by Edward Steichen “Charlie Chaplin” 1925.

Space/Time by Ziba Rajabi

To Ooze
Acrylic on Canvas, Thread, Nail

As an Iranian female artist based in Arkansas, Rajabi’s work revolves around the desire to reconcile her relationship with two distinctive spaces: Tehran (her native land) and Arkansas (where she resides now). In her paintings and installations, she re-creates intimate moments torn from her home and neighborhood in Iran. Because she is far away from her homeland and not allowed to return without being trapped in  Iran, Rajabi can feel her memories of home fading away. She uses memories and images that have been rendered unrecognizable by the passage of time and turns them into shapes that allude to her homeland. Consequently, aspects of everyday life such as architecture, furniture, gardens, or a specific time of a day become the basis for her work. Her desire is to create a situation where the viewer looks at abstract paintings or installations and feels a familiarity, but can’t quite place what it is or why they sense a kinship. By creating this kind of scenario, she can show that regardless of nationality, religion, or gender there are commonalities for all individuals – that in a way, the masks of identities we wear may look different but are made of the same things.

Blue Petals from Green Arkansas 
Acrylic on Canvas, Mixed Media
First-Person Narrative
Acrylic on Canvas, Mixed Media
Bleeding to space 
Acrylic on Canvas, Thread
Untitled
Acrylic on Canvas, Mixed Media
About Being
Acrylic on Canvas, Thread

Ziba Rajabi (b.1988, Tehran, Iran) received her MFA from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and her BFA from Sooreh University, Tehran. She is the recipient of the student artist grant for the Artist 360 Grant, a program sponsored by Mid-America Arts Alliance. Her work has been included in a number of exhibitions, nationally and internationally, such as Masur Museum, LA; CICA Museum, South Korea; Aran Gallery, Iran; Art Fileds, SC; Pensacola Museum, Florida; Site:Brooklyn, NY; Amos Eno Gallery,NY; Millersville University, Indiana University, and Mim Gallery, Los Angeles. Find more of her work here.

conditioner

& couldn’t we be
softer? flyaways tamed,
cowlicks domesticated, &
all the scallops filed
away. we could make this world

more than His dollhouse,
remind our minted, plasticky
selves of our own
fragility – the shredding
of a nail, temporariness
of skin, disobedience
inherited
in the curl of our hair:

rebel. i go
to the salon to be so
mutinous, palms
sweating under hairdresser’s cape.
i come to be beautiful
for my female gaze, eyes seaming
gently shut, as janice

kneads my shoulders. her tagalog rattling
above my scalp, knocking
with anna’s at reception, like a thousand
little cowrie shells. maryam dips

mulchy dyed paintbrush
into a mother’s roots, her arabic basting
the hairdryer’s din. two french women toast
their hands under
hot igloos calcifying
color on their hands quoi,
c’est magnifique, look

how pretty we
arm ourselves. & nobody
but us can ever know
how it feels: “for women only”

once, you set us
apart so we kept
making rooms for ourselves, steaming &
polishing our own kilns,
where we come under
fire, but only for the pleasure
of ourselves. see, the swing

of my smoking mouth, my smooth
jazz hair – this is all mine,
ours, this space where we lacquer
& buff all the edges
you sink in our silkened surfaces: yes,
we’re the paper you toss
after glossing upon, with
all the errors of your hands.

 

 

Image by Ciu Xiuwen, documentary still from “Ladies Room”, 2000

there are ghosts fellating the machinery

By Jane Ayres

living the dream
(your best life)
smashing it
anything’s possible
inside the bubble
—————-because you’ve got this
(own it) and we’re having so much fun
—————-because the universe provides
and you & I are only limited by our limiting beliefs
(what are you waiting for?)
pass the sequinned bucket
put on the vajazzled facemask
the scariest part is not knowing
feeling the fear 24/7/12/365
don’t overthink the journey
—————-because I’m not sure yet but
—————-I’ll decide on the way

 

Artwork by David Hockney

Portrait of the Artist by Gabriela Kucuruza

Between painting and poetry, Gabriela Kucuruza is a young Brazilian artist who works with the expressions of bodies, existence, colors, feelings and femininity. Inside the world of paints, canvases and words, her artwork is how she finds a way to breathe. There is no clear distinction between who she is and what she creates, especially when her art is a continuous process of giving life and giving death. Her artwork is, finally, a way to unveil and to explore the identity that is embroidered on her body and on her mind.