»[Un]seen Sacred Spaces« by Asma Aiad, 3D Environment / Visualisation: Rebecca Merlic

Muslim*Present in Köln 

Intervention & Talk

An Intervention in public space by Asma Aiad, curated by Simone Pfeifer

As part of »Muslim*Present«, the artist Asma Aiad will realise two works in Cologne in the period from 10 to 24 June 2023: »This is not a headscarf« and »[In]visible Mosques«. In addition, an accompanying event with an artist talk and a reading will take place in Cologne on 10 June 2023.

In her work »This is not a headscarf«, Asma Aiad deals with the recurring debates about the so-called Muslim ›headscarf‹ and the interpretative sovereignty over the female body. What is a head covering? When and by whom is a head covering read as Muslim and when is it not? What is this head covering for the women who wear it, and what foreign attributions and demonstrations of power do women have to deal with? The nine portraits of a young woman with different head coverings playfully show how different forms of discrimination are connected and negotiated in society.

Through the photographic exploration, Asma Aiad refers to the work of the Belgian surrealist René Magritte and questions the connection between words, images and their meanings. The tile, on which the nine portraits are arranged in an Instagram grid, updates the well-known art historical work in the context of social media and current social debates. In Cologne, the work will be on display at three locations on billboards in public spaces. Passers-by are invited to react to the work in digital space. The combination of physical presence and intervention on site and digital aesthetics and practice points to a space of action for Muslim perspectives beyond the dominant discourses in post-migrant societies. 

With »[In]visible Mosques«, Asma Aiad is extending an existing work to Cologne and will develop it during her stay in Cologne. In the photographic documentation of selected mosques in Cologne, the artist deals with the visibility and invisibility of religious buildings in Cologne. She sees [invisibility] not only as a pair of opposites, but refers to the multi-layered levels of meaning. The highly visible and representative construction of the central mosque in Cologne has led to many debates. Many mosques in residential buildings, shops or former industrial buildings, on the other hand, are not recognisable and visible as religious places in the urban space and are therefore often less exposed to public debate. Their invisibility thus protects them to a certain extent. But even within the mosques, not all parts are equally visible to all. Through her intervention and documentation, Asma Aiad makes places in Cologne visible from an artistic perspective that are otherwise often only perceived in charged debates and not in their everyday diversity.

In conversation with Fatima Remli, the artist Asma Aiad and the scholar Lana Sirri address Islamic feminist perspectives on current debates in post-migrant society. They bring different activist and artistic positions to the discussion about the ›headscarf‹, patriarchal structures and being queer and Muslim. The starting point for the discussion is Asma Aiad’s work »This is not a headscarf« which is exhibited on a billboard at Ebertplatz, and the reading from Lana Sirri’s book Introduction to Islamic Feminisms (w_orten & meer, 2020, in German).

Venue: Social Media & Poster Walls in the City of Cologne 
Intervention: 10 June – 20 July 2023
Talk & Reading with Asma Aiad and Dr. Lana Sirri (in German), moderated by Fatima Remli
Sat, 10 June 2023, 7 – 8.30 p.m., Ebertplatz (Passage), 50668 Köln

Flyer English & German


Asma Aiad

Asma Aiad is an artist, activist and co-founder of Salam Oida, an initiative that celebrates diversity in art and culture. She is a spokesperson for the Austrian anti-racism referendum »Black Voices.« Her activism and artistic work deal with racism, feminism and the deconstruction of stereotypes. In her various works such as »This is not a headscarf« or »[Un]seen Sacred Spaces« she deals with her Muslim identity in Austria & Europe and issues such as discrimination, representation and art. She completed her Master’s degree at the Institute for Gender Studies on the topic of Islamic Feminism and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Dr. Lana Sirri

Dr. Lana Sirri is a researcher and activist whose work focuses on the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality, with a critical examination of Islamic feminist thought. Her book, Islamic Feminism: Discourses on Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Islam, was published in 2020 in Routledge Book Series »Critical Studies in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality.« As knowledge valorization and societal outreach are indispensable to her academic journey, Lana also published a non-fiction book titled Einführung in islamische Feminismen in 2017 and 2020, which aims to make different perspectives of Islamic feminism accessible to lay readers. Currently, Lana is embarking on a creative endeavor to adapt her book into a graphic novel designed as an empowerment tool for Muslim youth in Germany. Lana is an associated expert of the Centre for Intersectional Justice (CIJ) and co-founder of the Berlin Muslim Feminists group, an initiative committed to Muslim ethics and an intersectional feminism that is inclusive of all.

Fatima Remli

Fatima Remli works as a freelance writer, presenter and podcaster. She also hosted live formats for several magazines, theaters and festivals. She is active in the field of refugees, feminism and the visibility of the Maghreb Diaspora and is politically active in the »Social Affairs and Senior Citizens« committee of the city of Cologne. Fatima published political poetry, as she likes to call it. With her lyrical texts, she was featured in the exhibition Resist! The Art of Resistance (2021/2022) at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum and was a member of several Writer's Rooms, as well as the Round Table for »Fonds Darstellende Künste.«