Echo Chamber, Het Oog, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, NL
From 6 May 2017 Navine G. Khan-Dossos occupies Het Oog for the creation of a new mural, Echo Chamber. During half a year visitors can literally see the work being created. The public can witness the processes and the results of the working process.
The subject of the painting is Samantha Lewthwaite, or Sherafiyah Lewthwaite, also known as Natalie Webb, and, in the press as ‘The White Widow’. Lewthwaite is a 33 year-old woman from the UK, who converted to Islam in her twenties, and is the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the bombers involved in the 2007 London bombings. After several years in the media limelight following her husband’s death, she is now presumed to be living in East Africa. She is considered to be a dangerous terrorist due to her alignment and suspected involved with Al-Shabaab, a militant group in East-Africa, linked to Al-Qaeda. On 26th September 2013, following the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi, Interpol issued a red notice, adding Lewthwaite to their wanted list.
For many years Khan-Dossos has followed the story of Lewthwaite, her whereabouts, her tweets, her diaries, her disappearance and mysterious sightings. Echo Chamber is an attempt at creating an aniconic portrait of this young woman, without continuing to represent her through the selfies or other mass distributed low-resolution quality images still circulating online. The mural in Het Oog defines an hermetically sealed space that explores how easy it can be to exist in a world that reflects only the ideas we choose to surround ourselves with, a phenomenon we are all familiar with on social media.
Khan-Dossos takes Lewthwaite as her subject to explore the transgressive and gendered stereotypes related to the subject of women and terrorism. It is a subject that has interested her for a long time. She seeks to represent an unknown inner landscape of her subject, as a way to counter and question the common representations of women and violence.
The work uses a reduced palette of colour that Khan-Dossos deploys as a symbolic language. Red fading into pink creates a spectral tone that starts with the red of high alert, danger and of Lewthwaite’s Interpol notice, through to pinks of femininity and softness. The white of innocence and purity, fades through the ‘grey zone’, and finally towards black, the political colour of choice for many extremist movements. The colours here suggest how these binaries can merge and be a part of the same narrative. The pattern she works with is based on the structure of muqarnas, an Islamic architectural form of vaulting that plays light and sound off its many intricate faceted surfaces.
Curated by Annie Fletcher