the conference of the Birds
The Conference of the Birds is a COLLABORATion BETWEEN FARIBA SALMA ALAM AND Muslim girls and WOMEN throughout the five boroughs of New York City. In this project, each participant decides for herself how she wants to be portrayed, in her choice of clothing and props, in the company of friends or family, or IN AN IMaginary place.
The term "Muslim girl" is repeated in U.S. headlines every day, accompanied by stories in which Muslim women and girls are either courageous heroines bucking religious stereotypes, or helpless victims of those same religious prejudices. In either case, these monolithic portrayals in the Western press render us hyper-visible and simultaneously invisible. The Conference of the Birds aims to return agency to both the photographer and the project participants. The resulting images are as quiet, fantastical or radical as these co-creators make them. The ongoing project is an act of returning image creation to our larger community, from Islamophobia, Islamophilia, and stereotyping, to invention, imagination, and self-determination.
The Conference of the Birds is a reference to a celebrated literary masterpiece of Persian literature by Farid ud-Din Attar. The poem recounts the perilous journey of the world’s birds to the faraway peaks of Mount Qaf—a mythical mountain that wraps around the earth—in search of their king, the mysterious Simorgh. Attar’s anecdotes and humor intermingle the sublime with the mundane, the spiritual with the worldly, and the religious with the metaphysical. Reflecting the entire evolution of Sufi mystic tradition, The Conference of the Birds models the soul’s escape from the mind’s rational embrace.
RIA, 17 YEARS OlD, FAR ROCKAWAY, NY
ASSIYA, 23 years old, NEW YORK CITY
Jamila, 18 years old, Queens, NY
P.S. Your tax-deductible donation to The Conference of the Birds supports the production costs, studio rentals, outreach, post-production, stipends and travel reimbursements that will allow this project to draw from a wide range of participants and make it a success. All donations will route through The South Asian Women's Creative Collective, www.sawcc.org, our 501c3 fiscal sponsor.
Fariba Salma Alam is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who creates small-scale installations with ceramic tiles, self-portraits and archival photographs. Fariba holds a B.A. from Columbia College, Columbia University. She is the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and holds an M.A. in Studio Art and Art Criticism from New York University/The International Center of Photography. Alam's work has been shown at The Queens Museum, The Asia Society, Exit Art, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MOCADA,) The Museum of African Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art/Shanghai, the inaugural B.R.I.C. Biennial, amongst others. Collections include The Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena, The New Jersey Art Museum and the Burger Collection. Alam has volunteered her creative services for Sakhi for South Asian Women and The Acid Survivor's Foundation in Bangladesh.