I was born in 1990, after the 1979 great siege of Mecca, which historically changed everything. Growing up, I remember my bedroom windows were covered with newspapers so that our neighbors would not see us. I could never play outside and God-forbid anyone ever saw my hair.
My father told me of his childhood, before the religious police had power. When there was still music to be heard, plays to be seen and hair to be shown. But even he had to go through the trauma of prosecution when the religious police took more control in his teen years.
When my father was about 13 or 14, he had long hair which he loved. One day when he was going to work in his summer job, the religious police saw how long his hair was, and upset by this, they took him and shaved half his head.
He described the humiliation, embarrassment and sadness he felt, walking back home with his half-shaved head. When he got home, he could not bring himself to shave the rest of his long hair, so instead he put on his shumagh and tilted it slightly to cover the part that was shaved.
In this project I began with historical research exploring the hair of men in my culture. Having long hair was common for pre-Islamic and Islamic Arabia. We see it in paintings and art and writing. Also, adorning hair with flowers was a big part too especially in the south of Saudi Arabia.
From there I began to sketch out my dad’s story, to imagine the steps he took to work that day, and the feelings of violation when his hair was cut. In my exploration of men’s hair, my dad’s hair, and my hair, I begin to make a connection: the cutting off of the feminine in all of us which is our deepest societal wound.