11 November 2023 – 16 March 2024

Shrouded Mysteries


Halimatu Iddrisu
Halimatu Iddrisu’s Shrouded Mysteries (The New Norms) is a commentary on the cultural connotations and perceptions that shape how religion is interpreted and how autonomyis perceived. Iddrisu addresses issues of identity, beauty and attire from her perspectiveas a young liberal Muslim Ghanaian woman.

In some Islamic communities in Ghana henna patterns are historically drawn on thehands and feet of women as a form of adornment for occasions like weddings, namingceremonies and Eid celebrations. In some approaches to how Islam is practised in these Ghanaian communities, it is mandated that once the henna is applied on the body it is to be covered and only shown to a woman’s close family members. However, young women in Zongo communities in Kumasi and Accra deviate from this mandate as an expression of freedom. Inspired by these young women and her upbringing in a strict Islamic household, the work that Iddrisu has created for this exhibit focuses on her embrace of Muslim women in Ghana who are breaking out of conservative dressing norms.

The body of work Iddrisu presents in Shrouded Mysteries (The New Norms) takes the form of draping fabrics, paintings, sketches, poems and an audio installation about the origins and use of henna. In the artist’s work the hands and feet of the staged models are covered and painted either black or brown to counter rules that dictate that only thesebody parts should be exposed. The paint dulls the elements people are told they shouldfocus on so the viewer can take in the work as a whole. Iddrisu’s self-portraits, the photographs capturing friends and family in their daily routines and the audio of Iddrisu’s conversations with the poet Megborna are visual and auditory cues.

They give a glimpse into how she, and the young Muslim women she is inspired by, navigate and explore their autonomy within and through their cultural and religious landscapes. When viewing the art, the audience is invited to step into a journey of self-exploration. How would you identify if all the layers were peeled back and you were left looking at the reflection? Who are you when there are no family traditions to adhere to, or religious expectations to abide by, or societal pressures to succumb to?
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