Marja-Leena Rathje
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after Penn's Guedras


Veils Suite: after Penn's Guedras
etching & drypoint 60 x 44 cm.

I was working on my Veils Suite series of prints about wrapped and veiled figures, when in some magazine now long forgotten, I came across Irving Penn's photographs of the guedras of Morocco. They inspired several pieces; the first is this one - Veils Suite: after Penn's Guedras. I will post some of the others over the next week or two.

I was recently reminded again of Irving Penn by Joerg at conscientous who offers links to some bios and examples of Penn's photographic works. My favourites are his African photographs and of course this one that so inspired me. I also found this similar compelling and disturbing one of three rissani women that I don't think I have seen before.

Marja-Leena | 13/01/2005 | 4 comments
themes: Printworks, Veils Suite


Marja-Leena: Have you ever travelled to the Middle East? I too find the women clad in burkhas (sp?) to be disturbing/fascinating. I've seen a few Iranian films, and I really enjoy the works of Sufi poet Rumi, and the Sufi music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - but the belief that women are not 'good enough' to worship Allah in the same way that men are, and are beneath men enough to be treated like's just unfathomable that the same beliefs that inspire such beauty can tolerate and inspire mistreatment of fellow humans. I'm sure I'm simplifying and erroneously interpreting actions of different sects.
Interestingly, I have two good friends who are Orthodox monastics - one a nun, the other a monk. When either of them are out in public, especially away from their respective homes where people are used to their appearance, they are often asked if they are Muslim. Especially the nun - her 'order' wears Romanian style habits, which consist of (all black) head covering or veil, similar to the old Catholic style, minus the white wimple. ONly her eyebrows to her chin and cheeks are exposed. There's also a hat that goes on top of the head, and a long, full outer garment, or riassa. The monks a least don't have to wear the head covering - only a hat! But all have long, uncut hair and beards.
Thank you for sharing these haunting photographs!

Hi Jackie!

Thank you for your very interesting comments! The Muslim male attitude to women is very disturbing, but I'm told that it is a twisting of the true faith by the extreme right which have & wish to keep their power. Iran and Afghanistan used to be quite modern with their well-educated women, many who left and came to places like Canada.

No, I've never travelled anywhere east of Europe, though I wish to. At the time that I started working on this series, I was thinking about wrapping and veils in a symbolic way, in how we all dress to hide or reveal ourselves. As the series developed, so did the theme, to include guedras, Muslims, and as you mention, the Orthodox monastics. The reasons for hiding/revealing kept getting expanded. One of the final pieces in the series was Wedding Veils though I could have gone one forever.


I want just to say that according to islam,man and woman are different but equal.
The idea about mistreatment is maybe a "cultural" behavior from male.It's noway a question of islamic precepts.

Thanks for photographs..

Hello and welcome to my blog, Ladrissa! In my limited understanding of true Islam, I agree that humans are equal. The "cultural" practise has been distorted by the extreme, political and power hungry "religious" leaders at the expense of women. This isn't exclusive to Islam but also happens in other faiths, when "faith" is used for political ends, as a means to dominate certain groups or justify behaviour that is actually not true to the faith. Without naming names, I think we know who we are talking about.

I'm glad you like this piece. Have a look at the others in this Veils Suite series (link under Printworks at top left on the side bar). At the time I was doing this series, I was thinking less about politics anad faith and more about the concept of "wrapping" and "veiling" of self.

Thanks for visiting, come again! Wish my French was better so I could read your blog.