'Picture an Arab Man' trends online

Farah Montasser, Sunday 4 Mar 2012

Iraqi-Canadian artist/photojournalist Tamara Abdul Hadi is leveraging the power of social networking sites to combat mainstream stereotypes of Arab men

picture of an arab man
Picture of An Arab Man by Tamara Abdul Hadi

As social networking giants Twitter and Facebook presented a platform for revolutionary youth across the Middle East and North Africa, beginning with the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 and ongoing in the Arab Spring of 2011 and 2012, young enthusiast artists have started using the internet as a means to get their work recognised by ever greater numbers. Tamara Abdul Hadi is one artist that decided to collect funds for her artwork through marketing it on Twitter.

On Saturday, 3 March, Iraqi-Canadian Abdul Hadi launched "Picture an Arab Man," which she admits is a work in progress. Her art project is trending on Twitter. The idea of the project started in 2009, presenting semi-nude portraits of Arab men of diverse backgrounds. The project aims to give a new face to Arab males than the one in the mainstream media. Breaking down stereotypes as to how Arabs have been represented in the West, as well as in the East, is one of the conceptual aims of the project.

"It is an attempt to uncover and break the stereotypes imposed on the Arab male in a post-9/11 world, and to provide an alternative visual representation of that identity," Abdul Hadi says in a statement on her website.

Her models include men from across the Arab world, though mainly from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Dubai and Palestine. Some of her portraits are of Arab-Canadians. Abdul Hadi aims to paint a picture of the shared heritage of the Arab world while underwriting "the diversity of the Arab region."

Not only has Abdul Hadi wagered that online exhibitions and social networking sites can spread her work, she developed new marketing strategies to attain the same end. “Receiving funding to complete the project will also get me one step closer to my ultimate goal, which is to publish this project as a book,” she says in her statement. “The funds that I am requesting will go toward covering my transportation and accommodation, and for printing of prototypes of the book," she added.

Tamara Abdul Hadi is a photojournalist who has worked for Reuters News Agency, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. Abdul Hadi has exhibited her photos in London, Dubai, Beirut, Montreal and the US. Aiming at empowering women through creative arts that combat social injustice and deconstruct stereotypes, Abdul Hadi gave photography workshops in Lebanon and Palestine/

Over recent days, her fundraising tweets got many retweets that will help her project. With Twitter emerging as key to marketing strategy, Abdul Hadi's target may finally see the light. On her exhibition website, Abdul Hadi has put her fundraising goal at $8,280, with 57 days left to meet it.

"Picture an Arab Man" can be viewed HERE

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