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BFA+ MFA Thesis 2024

Saraalafifi 2024 Mfa 1500x1500
Altered Sitarahs, Embroidery on Fabric

Sarah Alafifi

The Incoherence of Orientalists

MFA in Design

Orientalism, the Western practice of fetishizing cultures, extends beyond mere misrepresentation of the “other;” it epitomizes the underlying structures of colonialism and imperialism, infiltrating everyday life and eroding the moral fabric of Islamic society. 

This thesis analyzes colonial control through the exercise of political power and the production of knowledge, investigating key events related to Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and the narratives of resistance that emerged in opposition to it.

Through the lens of this 18th-century expedition, the study examines how Western knowledge systematically contributed to the dismantling of Islamic systems of knowledge. Select phrases from Colonial-era printed proclamations are extracted and embroidered into a two-part series of symbolic Sitarahs—textiles ritually placed at the door of the Kaaba. 
The resulting Sitarahs exposes the stages of Orientalist discourse, its symbols and its language, echoing the oppressor’s voice. A visual, critical response to Orientalism, the work engenders an Arabic intellectual culture that prioritizes intrinsic Arab Islamic values, fostering a post-Orientalist society