At first glance, Cityscapes (2010) seems to be a collection of panoramic photographs of the city of Istanbul—the kind that are found on postcards in souvenir shops. A closer examination, however, reveals that a key element—the minaret—has been systematically removed, thereby changing profoundly the history and religious character of the city. The work is a response to a November 2009 referendum in Switzerland that approved a ban on the construction of new minarets in that country. It was also a crucial time in Turkey’s negotiation for entrance into the European Union.
Hamra Abbas, who lives and works in Boston and Islamabad, Pakistan, makes work that has a profound connection to her own cultural context. She asks probing questions about the everyday and its complex relationship with history and ideology; her subject matter ranges from religious rituals to war and the sexual iconography of the Kama Sutra. Working with a diverse range of materials and media, Abbas frequently intertwines the contemporary with the classic to offer up a critique of both modern Western and Islamic cultures.