The politics of voice: The tale of tresses

Maral Mamaghanizadeh graduated with an MA from the school of Jewellery and Silversmithing from Birmingham City University in 2017. During her time at BCU, she created work that drew on her experience as a Deaf Iranian woman with feminism, oppression and the forced wearing of the hijab [veil] in Iran. 

As a woman in Iran, you are not allowed to uncover your hair, talk about feminism or sexuality, as these are taboo subjects. 

Leaving Iran and studying in the UK gave Maral a new perspective on the issues surrounding women’s rights. She began to use human hair as a material within her work, the hair representing the long term political struggle that exists in Iran. 

Maral explored this conceptually by creating a series of brooches using her own and her Iranian friend’s hair. As a provocation, she cut her hair live on instagram.

Maral’s Provocation.

Each brooch is unique, designed to match each person that has donated their hair. The hair decorates the brooch using patterns and symbols to represent the personality of the wearer, and the stories that they, as women, reflect upon. 

The Tale of Tresses: Fatemeh

Fatemeh: Fatemeh is the shyest person I have ever met. She has no confidence in herself and suffered from anthropophobia.  I camouflaged the coconut shell with her hair, to hide the base material representing Fatemeh who makes an emotional wall around herself from people, so they cannot get close.  

The Tale of Tresses: Dorsa

Dorsa: She is into warm tones of colour and also the mysterious and primitive shapes from ancient human’s drawings. I wove her hair into the coconut shell in her favourite shape, the triangle. I used a traditional basket weaving method to do this. The triangle is upside down, representing the shape of the womb, to show her femininity.

The structure of the brooch is made with a coconut shell, resembling a woman’s breast. The intention is to challenge the male patriarchy in Iran; you force me to cover my hair for modesty, to protect myself from men’s lustful gaze, but it is YOU that can’t control yourself. If I wear my hair on my ‘breast’, do I still break your rules?

This unique series of protest artwork eventually forced Maral to seek asylum in the UK. Unable to return to her family and her home country, Iran, she now has permanent leave to remain in the UK and has settled in Birmingham.