Book Review: Women of Kuwait
By Jenna Butler
The bedroom is the most intimate room in any house--a room most Kuwaiti women would never be photographed in. Maha Alasaker’s book Women of Kuwait, takes us on a journey a photographer has never been on before--into the bedrooms of Kuwaiti women: 25 women, 25 bedrooms, 25 stories. Within each room, we discover a new woman with a new story to tell. Each photograph is accompanied by a story written by Nada Faris, an intimate anecdote that is personal, empowering, and honest.
In one photograph, Djinane Alsuwayeh is sitting on her bed. Light wanders in through a window gently kissing the left side of her body, leaving the other half a mystery. She is clutching a pillow. Pain is hidden among the crevices and shadows of her face. This photograph tells the story of a woman who has struggled finding words to express her grief. It shows how, through a life of inequality and repression, this woman was never taught to deal with sorrow, and has spent her entire life seeking an inner peace.
In Alasaker’s book, we see women wearing an array of different ensembles. Some chose to dress more traditionally, wearing a hijab. Some simply wear jeans and a blazer. How they choose to show themselves to the world reveals that women are emerging as individuals, regardless of their politics or religion.
Kuwait is said to be the Middle Eastern country where gender equality is most prevalent. Although this may be true, women there are still challenged by tradition, even as they emerge as the emblematic “Modern Woman.” In the office, women are equal to men, but outside women are expected to fit into the same role they have faced for hundreds of years.
Through each photograph, we learn about a new woman and her experiences in Kuwait. They are strong, beautiful, and unfazed by the society that is still, in some ways, set up against them. One day, women in Kuwait will live their lives by choice, not expectation.
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