The photo was taken by Sooraya Graham, a Thompson Rivers University fine arts student who wears a Muslim headdress herself, and features one of Graham’s friends folding laundry while wearing a niqab, a veil covering the face, and an abaya, a full-body cloak. Graham said her intention had been to “humanize” women who wear the niqab, by showing one doing a simple act that many women can relate to.
The picture was a class assignment and was originally displayed with other student photos in mid-March, until some students complained and a staff member tore it down a week later.
“I was pretty shocked and I kind of felt my personal space as an artist and a Canadian had been invaded,” said Graham.
The university has apologized and has offered to cover any costs for repair or replacement of the photo. However, the Saudi Education Centre in Kamloops, which is funded by the Saudi Arabian government and provides support to Saudi students and their families, is now taking issue with the photo.
“The artist didn’t approach the artwork let’s say in a very professional way that can state and can clarify the information and clarify the idea behind the picture,” said centre president Trad Bahabri. He said he thinks text explaining the photo’s meaning is needed.