Aniconism as Figurative Urgency (the Hand), 2022

Borrowing from the tradition of Aniconism in Islamic art, Monia Ben Hamouda abstracts this ancient tradition and distorts it in her series of hanging sculptural works.

In these works, Aniconism, the objection towards the use of icons such as creatures and religious features, is tarnished as the steel sculpture morphs into representative shapes of the human body. Embodying calligraphic brushstrokes that mimic Arabic text yet signify nothing, the sculptures’ extremities extend into the clear outlines of hands. These hands gesture towards the ritual of the evil eye in Tunisia. The hands motioning downwards like a Hamsa or Hand of Fatima, apotropaic symbols of protection, repeat within the rhythmic shapes of the calligraphic forms. Punctuations and certain curves slowly reveal themselves as eyes that likewise deflect misfortune. Covered in fragrant spices such as cumin, curcuma and curry, the sculptures protect and are protected by their medicinal, ceremonial, culinary and ritualistic properties used for thousands of years. This protection extends to the artwork, but also the artist who is likewise caught in the duality of her Islamic heritage in Europe, and perhaps also to the viewer.