sticks and stones
'Sticks and Stones', cotton hand embroidery and acrylic on calico, 2020.
Moonah Arts Centre, TAS
Repetitive, reductive language reinforces unconscious biases and stereotypes. In 'Sticks and Stones', common idioms and newspaper headlines from 2001 to today are delicately hand embroidered on pastel backgrounds. The wallpaper of soft textile works belies the meaning of the words.
The texts are centred around two main themes. The idioms focus on gender stereotypes. The headlines explore Islamophobia in Australian print media.These themes are drawn from intersections of the artist’s personal identity. Sharifah Emalia is a woman who has Muslim family and belongs to what is known as the “post 9/11 generation”. Since September 2001, Muslims have been viewed through a narrative lens of terrorism. The 9/11 attack has come to frame almost all common understanding of Islam and the Middle East.
The juxtaposition of throwaway idioms against the violent headline excerpts acts to recontextualise the phrases. The audience is invited to reconsider the weight that words hold. Pairing the seemingly banal idioms with the overtly vitriolic headline excerpts creates a dialogue.
This exhibition interrogates how reductive language becomes embedded in everyday vernacular and emphasises the power that colloquial language has in perpetuating harmful stereotypes.