Resembling a scene from the well-known tv series Hareem Al Sulatan, the carefully constructed set design in the portrait of ‘Nadine’ a migrant worker embodying Sultana is intensively decorated with a variety of elements reminiscent of the luxury, wealth and royalty that once ruled the historical ottoman palaces.
Suggestive of the ‘Tableau Vivant,’ ‘Nadine’ is one of twenty blatantly theatrical, and painterly like photographs portraying legendary personalities, celebrities, socio-political figures, and religious icons, from ‘Maidames’ a recent body of work by Lebanese artist and writer Chaza Charafeddine.
Provoked by the many implications related to power structures, and culture codes set between migrant workers and their employers in Lebanon, the series cross-examines the socially obligated roles assigned to both the ‘madam’ and the ‘maid.’
While these obligations create certain boundaries around the relationship between these individuals, both find themselves dreaming about being women of higher statuses.
Aged between twenty-two and sixty, these migrant workers come from Ethiopia, Siri Lanka, Cameroon, and the Philippines, and are all employed under the ambiguous Kafala sponsorship system.
Presented by a catalog filled with images of western historical references as well as international and local celebrities, these women had the opportunity to select two characters they would like to embody.
‘Hana Lielit’ was the only personification that was chosen by Charafeddine. To her, it was important to find a ‘maid’ star throughout history, and the rumored story behind the painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was the reference she found interesting.
Hana left Metahara, her village in Ethiopia at the age of sixteen. Now twenty-three, she was contacted by a friend of hers about Charafeddine’s project. A lover of the arts, fashion, and photography she was quick to respond and readily ventured off on a journey that fulfilled one of her dreams.
While ‘Maidames’ features many well-known personalities like Marlyn Monroe Jacqueline Kennedy, Shakira, and Haifa Wehbe, it also focuses on fantasies that many experience during their life, such as being a bride, or a wealthy woman wearing fur.
A body of work shot over two weekends in July of 2017, ‘Maidames’ required intensive research and a team made up of twelve individuals who worked really hard on putting together the set design, the costumes, and props. ‘
’Maidames’ celebrates the women who not only take care of our households but also help in raising generations. Every photographed is a portrait, that allows these women to dream of a reality that seems unreachable.
This oeuvre took several years to complete. It was exhibited in October of 2018, at Agial Art Gallery.
Charafeddine is currently working on a book under the same theme, which will be published in the near future.