Recently I was at the private preview and panel discussion of the Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi at the Kashya Hilderbrand Gallery in London. Titled ‘The Dangerous Frontier’ the exhibition was a series of photographs depicting Arab women as ‘femme fatales’ surrounded by and elegantly adorned with shimmering fabrics, giving an impression of opulence and luxury. On closer inspection the image has been created using polished bullet casings which have been hand sewn onto the models’ clothes, jewels and beds – a metaphor, Essaydi has described for ‘the hidden violence endured by women in some Islamic cultures’.
This morning I was reminded of someone I met a few years ago who used to live and work in the UAE. He is now back in the UK offering cross cultural seminars and consultancy for Westerners with business interests in the Middle East. I won’t divulge his name, but what I can say, is that even though he spent a long period of time in the region he still managed to offend the rulers of the land by using a culturally inappropriate play on words to name his company!