A young Paris-based guerilla street artist who calls herself Princess Hijab (PH) has been "hijabizing" advertisements, spray-painting veils and chadors onto the lightly dressed models. MENASSAT had a chat with the mysterious artist who says she is fighting Jihad through art.
What is that cause? In a nutshell, it is to subvert consumer images—especially of women—and to push cultural boundaries.
And few are spared the Princess' black marker and spray paint in her artistic Jihad.
In the online gallery of her "hijabizing" of ad campaigns, lightly clad models in ads for Virgin Music and various clothing companies have been re-dressed by the Princess in veils and chadors (body-length veil), their eyes popping out of face-covering hijabs.
They are striking as much as they are irreverent, and they have caused anger in both Muslim and secular circles.
Cinderella in chador and hijab men
Even Cinderella dancing with her prince in an animated advertisement for the popular fairytale turned film has had her dress changed to a black chador/abaya.
Next to the "hijabized" Cinderella is an ad of a man with a black medieval-style helmet painted over his head, only his bright blue eyes sticking out of the artistic arrangement.
Princess Hijab told MENASSAT that her hijab campaigns are not plastered on the streets of Paris as an act of "art for art's sake," but instead represent a part of what she calls "art propositions for a more global idea."
In this global idea, Princess Hijab means she pursues what she calls her "noble cause," or her "anti-advertising movement" in an attempt to fight today's mainstream and sexist consumerism.
But what she calls her "subverting visuals" are done in a manner that puts it in opposition to a Western-style advertising format, with its images of scantily clad women and underweight men and women used to sell anything from deodorant to coffee.
Speaking in the third person, Princess Hijab said, "When she [Princess Hijab] was a teen, she heard about movements such as Adbuster. But since September 11, things have changed. She does not subvert images in an American way."
When MENASSAT asked the anonymous artist about her inspiration, she quoted a number of affiliations and movements.
"…the Woman. No logo from Naomi Klein, The anti-advertising movement… the gender movements… the straight edge, the nerd-centrism, atheism symbolism, urban legends, the allegories and the new myths..." she said.
While Princess H battles mass consumerism and sexist ads, some of her targets have been left with quite a feminine touch.
Take the paper dolls pieces that are makeshift mannequins dressed in veils, short abayas, often with high heels and often carrying mobile phones—modern women in any context occidental or eastern.
Interesting is also Princess Hijab's ad (left) that features three smiling veiled women on a blue, red, and white background, representing the colors of the French flag—clearly a reference to the country’s heated headscarf controversy over the past years.
Princess Hijab maintains that she is not involved in any religious or political movement or working for any lobbying group.
The 21-year old, who says she is an "unseen character" roaming the streets, alternatively describes herself as an "insomniac punk" and a leader of an "artistic fight."
Who is Princess Hijab?
"I created PH to be connected. I wanted to mix elements from different extractions and cultures, starting from my initial subject: the veiled woman. I believe it's the reason why PH had such an impact. She never let herself be defined by religion nor gender. It was really crucial for me,: she said.
And like other culture jammers like Banksy in the UK, Princess Hijab has chosen to remain anonymous. "I like secrets and it corresponds to something quite intimate to me," she said.
Asked whether she might reveal her identity in the future, she answered, "It's not impossible."
Not surprisingly, Princes Hijab's decision to remain anonymous has caused discussion and debate among bloggers and in online forums.
"Is she a Muslim or not? Or is Princess Hijab perhaps even a man?" are some of the questions being asked.
At one point, there was even talk about whether the Princess' first black and white hijab ad, which depicts a veiled woman with "Hijab Ad" written below it, was indeed a self-portrait of the artist.
Prince Habib's guerrilla street art has so far been featured at several art exhibitions, including one in Norway recently.
But the young artist stresses that it took a while for people to accept her alternative art, saying her hijab ads and projects were perceived quite negatively at first.
"At the beginning, the reactions were rather negative, but with the visibility increasing, it touched some people who could understand and be interested by my practice," she said.
And it's after all the unconventional audience—art lovers and bloggers alike—that Princess Hijab is trying to reach.
"There are always people who see through the first degree of consumerism. These are the kind of people I try to reach," she said.