Artists explore how 9-11 shaped the Muslim self


Two brothers are exploring the effects 9-11 has had on their Muslim identities before and after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Two brothers, born nine years apart, have been exploring that theme as it relates to their Islamic identity - before and after the September 11 attacks.

Older brother Abdul-Rahman grew up in the 80s and 90s with an understanding of his Muslim identity shaped by family, food, culture and spirituality.

Younger brother Abdul was a teenager when the US World Trade Centre was attacked.

"I know of only a few people who aren't affected by it personally,” Abdul says.

“Often I see quite a bit of anger amongst myself and my friends about how we've been represented and how we are treated as human beings in this country."

The two brothers are seventh generation Australian and have been exploring their sense of constructed Muslim identity in an art exhibition at the WA Art Gallery.

“It’s quite a different perspective on a similar experience,” said Abdul-Rahman.

Abdul Rahman says growing-up in the Western Australian suburbs in the 80s provided his understanding of the world.

“It was a Muslim household and my experience of being a Muslim was other Muslim families. It was very domestic in the home," he says.

“It was almost like this spiritual relationship with this community. It was based around eating, drinking, families in the home."

However this shifted to an "externalised, politicised identity" after the September 11 attacks.

“All of a sudden we were seeing portrayals of ourselves in the media every day and up until today it hasn't lessened off at all."

Abdul-Rahman’s artwork is mostly sculpture, but one piece is a print of the many 'faces' of Abdul. It shows pictures of mugshots, children’s faces and others taken off the internet with the many different meanings of the name Abdul and its variations.

There’s also a sculpture of him as a nine-year-old boy dressed in Muslim dress smiling up at chandelier. On the wall opposite is a bust of the brothers’ father wearing a beatific smile.

But the younger brother’s work shows how alienation can create 'monsters' and warp the minorities’ sense of self.

One stylised self-portrait shows the artist wearing a sinister-looking Planet of the Apes mask, the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf draped over his head and a black jumper with white Arabic writing.

The word is Salaam, an Arabic greeting of peace.

“All my work, the goal of it, is to challenge these misperceptions or perceptions, whatever you want to call it, but it's challenging, it's critiquing, and it's putting a mirror to people's biased views,” Abdul Abdullah said.

The exhibition runs until late July at the WA Art Gallery.

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