DOCUMENTED BY LAURA DEBERLE | HEIDELBERGER KUNSTVEREIN | 09-06-2016 | HEIDELBERG, GERMANY
Zuhra Hilal is a Germany-based avant-garde fashion designer and artist born in 1989 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zuhra graduated from Akademie JAK in Hamburg in 2013 with the project “OMO – Eine unerschöpfliche Garderobe”. During her studies she presented her collections under the name LOUR and in 2012 she co-founded the project “The Khalta”. Khalta means tote bag in Afghan and the project aims to give back a sense of unity to a country that has been torn apart through three decades of conflict by printing some of Afghanistan’s icons on an essential everyday item. The Khalta was presented at the Sound Central Festival 2012 in Kabul and the concept was received with scepticism and shock as well as curiosity and surprise. With avant-garde methods and materials, Zuhra is using fashion design as a means to investigate different aspects of her own cultural background. Even though Zuhra’s work is ever critical and experimental, she’s embracing the traditional aesthetics of the Orient by using materials found in for example Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran. After a long and deeply personal process, Zuhra was ready to present the collection NAMUS in the summer 2014. The name of the project was inspired by a core value in the Central and West Asian societies: namus is not easily translated but encompasses a concept of public respectability and virtuousness and is closely related to the behaviour of the family’s female members. By presenting a range of transparent burkas, Zuhra challenged the perception that the woman’s cultural restraints are bound to her appearance. For Zuhra NAMUS was only the first step in a much bigger exploration of the role of women and female sexuality in Central and West Asian societies. Her latest project “An Exploration Of The Nameless Anatomy” discusses the lack of a proper vocabulary when it comes to the female body and sexuality.