Souheila Chalabi
France, 1998
Thesis: The trial

My Imaginary Souk

In the past few years, around forty editions of the six best-selling magazines in France have displayed a topic related to Islam on their front page. France’s relations with Islam have always been difficult, and since the terrorrist attack, fear and hate is fuelled by a general lack of understanding of French Muslims: Who are they?

In the political essay that made him famous, Orientalism, Edward Said demonstrates that the West, through its “orientalist” paintings, writers and researchers, has constructed a discourse on the Orient borrowed from imagination and stereotypes. The East and therefore by extension, Islam and the Arabs were apprehended as a whole with defined and immutable characteristics.


These stereotypes affect me even though I didn’t experienced it as violente as others. So I decided to use my own image modeled on these stereotypes that I staged for caricature this thought of modern Orientalism by making garnment for my own body and re-using my personal wardrobe and transform it with different medium.

Like a satiric theatre piece, I’m embodied the islamo thug, the terrorist or the bellydancer to denounce the representation of the Arabic identity by using element from the popular culture from the diapora and the suburb

( sweatpant with a shisha print, famous rapper quotes, algerian sauce... ).

My imaginary souk is therefore the symbolism of this media demonization of the sale of a Caricatural Muslim identity and by taking different elements from the (Algerian) souk, the (Belleville) diaspora grocery shop, to the

(Parisian) souvenir shop and twisting it with my own medium ( silkscreen, sewing, embroidery, press, collage...). Im also highlighting the popular culture of the diapora which entered despite everything in the French identity codes. For me to used the codes of this media sale in my souk it is to denounce this identity assignation by applying it to myself to show all its derision. And therefore to question the viewer about how our unconscious build an identity.

Projects by: Souheila Chalabi