The Phases of Identity: A Digital Art Series

By Nada Al Mosa

This digital art series examines my personal chronological issues with my identity, regarding my femininity and the standards in place for what my womanhood is expected to be presented as.

Raised in a Muslim Arab family, a common first greeting between women is “Oh, have you lost weight?” Your acne, body, and choice of clothing are all subject to scrutiny, and you must calmly and respectfully accept it all.

In “Identity in Conflict,” the face is divided and contorted, reflecting how a woman often presents herself to the world, in comparison to how she truly feels on the inside. The dress she wears barely fits her, revealing her bare chest: vulnerability. The dress is not for her, but it is demanded of her.
“Faceless Flower” stems from this passive acceptance. No individuality is present, as there is no face to be identified by. You are a blossom, and must be treated like one, with no regard to who you truly are, and what you aspire to be. My hair has not been shown to my grandmother, whom I often see on a weekly basis, in over 3 years, because its short cut would have offended her, and I would receive no end to her disappointment. Hijab has concealed this fact from her. One Eid, my aunt said to my face that I had “finally worn something decent,” as if this is acceptable to say. My body is not for me, but for my family.
“Protect” represents the impact of these experiences. The mask in this drawing is the shield I had to place up in order to arm myself against the expectations of my community.
“Growth” shows that I am now in a space where I can expand, and most importantly, grow as the person I am and want to become.

I am unfortunately sentimental

I hate it when
we walk by houses/apartments/compounds
and you
so nonchalant
say “oh I used to live there
my life used to be contained within those four walls
but I am a free bird, a global citizen, I go where the wind takes me,
I go with the flow,”
how can you be such a slut for accommodation?
ignoring the nurturing of
a home filled with memories

because I can still remember
I can trace every brick
on the way from home to there
and back
always back
no matter how far I went
or whether I did the rings with suitcases
voyaged far and wide
only to return mid-August
to the familiar heat
and warmth of home

home is not debatable
or exchangeable
gutted and tossed aside
moving onto the next rental

if I close my eyes
I see my childhood
I see the shadows of curtains on my face as the sun sets
or walk into the kitchen with the door closed and see my dad
a big man
making eggs in a tiny pan
or take my comforter outside onto the
periwinkle bench we painted ourselves
in my little haven
under the canopy of birds and trees
and geckos sometimes
and spend the day reading
eventually braving the dustiest corner
(dusty because of the history of our living)
I watch hobgoblins and frankensteins scurry out from under
the tall lamp I smally wrestle
to enlighten my book and my mind
in the dark outside
until, weary-eyed,
I return to bed
relying on instinct and memory to guide me
to MY bed
in MY house
my home
that is not yours
even if you live there
at the moment

even if it has slipped through my fingers
a home I cannot attempt to replicate

yet, a compromise…
home exists in the heart and mind
it’s in family, in soul and in person
and I can always find a nook to read in
somewhere cold to have tea
a ring to do laps
Mama to listen
Bois to listen to
and Dad in his sofa.

I hate you,
who stoically accept the unfairness of the world
I hate you,
who understand that it is not uncommon
for childhood homes
to be left behind
and I hate you,
who can go back, year after year,
to see the markings on the wall
of your 2006
vs 2008 height


Artwork by Charlotte Edey “Chapel”


an empty seat on the train
begging for inhabitants.
a summer cottage heart
in the snow.

van gogh’s night nude
waiting for blinking lovers.
the stars coming
like paris gaslights slow
spreading fuming yellow
paint through your arteries
decorating the walls.

inside, a seed
longing for its own
pain –


sunflowers shooting out
the brains –


oh sunflower, don’t you nod too much
or too little?
don’t you shrink
like a bud braised in the burn
of the sun?
oh sunflower, my sunflower don’t
you wither into your past
back to fetus in the womb
back to ignorance of the tomb
in the soil that made you?

sunflower don’t
you forget
this sun is no perfect
no steadfast
don’t you

his name in yours?
the burn of the sun
in your flower

you forget

how you bloom in his glow.

sweet honey in your chest
hurts slow.
your skin, hurts slow. pulling out your
your bud struggling to
and in its rise committing
murder of its own
so it can be more

so much more
to unfurl
so much more
to paint
like rouge on your naked
body but burning
blinking yellow.


Painting by Vincent Van Gogh, “The Sower”