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Face: Muslim Communities Explored By Yumna Al-Arashi

London-based photographer Yumna Al-Arashi documents a forgotten community of Muslim women with her project ‘Face’. The series portrays a generation of older women who have worn facial tattoos for centuries as a mark of collective identity.

Intrigued by her great-grandmother’s facial tattoos, Al-Arashi decided to delve deep into the Muslim communities were having such tattoos holds great significance. Traveling to Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, the places where this tattoo culture still exists, Al-Arashi’s ‘Face’ portraits tell the story of a repressed history. In small pockets of these countries, it was custom for women to have their faces, and sometimes their hands and other hidden places, tattooed in their early teens. The practice, though painful, was seen as a kind of rite of passage — something that young women went through to appear more beautiful for future husbands.

 I remember the moment my Yemeni grandmother scorned my aunts and cousins for making fun of my tattoo. The room fell silent… 
“There was a love of individuality that my mother took in pride. I thought it was lost, but now I see her in you.”

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