Nesreen Abazid

Palimpsest and Identity

I pursued this project with the intent to build my identity as a bicultural female from the East and West. This work targets my Middle Eastern culture, an identity that I’m associated with the West. Because of a Western audience, my Middle Eastern culture dominates my identity.

I am constantly changing, along with my identity. With this development, I began to question some aspects of my upbringing as a child. I began this process by addressing some rules of behavior that were expected from a girl growing into a young woman.

Some that I questioned from a young age and found hard to follow. Such as riding a bike after reaching puberty because of the image that it might portray to people or tweezing your eyebrows because it considered an act of changing your appearance. Some of the rules felt like they were constantly being repeated by family, friends, and teachers as a way to shape us into the woman that appeals to society. As a response to this repetition, I got interested in the palimpsest as a tool to rewrite my  identity.

Palimpsest: a parchment or other writing surface on which the original text has been effaced or partially erased, and then overwritten by another. This is mostly seen in old manuscripts.
This project is a performance that shows me creating a palimpsest using lipstick as a writing tool and makeup wipes and white paint as a medium to cover and create layers. I chose to use red lipstick because it creates marks that are similar to scratches being etched into the paper, similar to reinforcing ideas and beliefs.

Text: The written and audio texts used are statements and sentences taken and translate into Arabic I from the book The Veil and The Male Elite by Fatima Mernissi. Mernissi was a figure that I chose to quote due to her status as a founder of Islamic feminism, who addresses issues on male and female dynamics in society and the role of women in Islam.   

Process: The process of creating a Palimpsest accompanied by Fatima Mernissi’s text allowed me to build a form of my identity by erasing and rewriting my thoughts and views, I embrace new ideas, allowing me to take control of myself identity and disregard culture expectations. Because my identity is consistently changing and reshaping itself. I will continue to question parts of my identity as I grow, and this will cause me to continue erasing and rewriting my identity.

It’s important that this project is not to be seen as a critique or attack on culture nor religion, but as a way to search for my identity.