Nabiha Dahhan

Nabiha Dahhan is an artist of half-German and half-Syrian heritage. She was born in Würzburg, Germany in 1976 and became a passionate photographer at the age of 13. In 1997 she began to study Visual Communication/Photo-Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld, Germany. In 2001, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Photographic and Digital Arts from the University of Westminster in London, and in 2004 she received her German degree. Together with her partner and collaborator Thom – whom Nabiha met in 1997 – the award winning artist couple officially founded their brand 'Unity Art' in 2006. Besides many exhibitions in Germany, Nabiha and Thom's works have been shown in the UK, France, Italy, Austria, Syria, Russia, Latvia, Spain, Cambodia, Greece, China, the USA and in India. Most of their Unity Art projects are produced in mutual inspiration and collaboration by the artist duo, but Nabiha has also produced many solo works and project such as her 'Hawa Mahal' series.

'Hawa Mahal' Series

When we were invited to an artist residency in Jaipur in 2017, we visited the beautiful UNESCO world heritage Palace of the Winds. I stood very close to one of the small windows and looked from the 5th floor onto the highly active and noisy street. I tried to put myself in the position of a lady-in-waiting at the time when the palace was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.

I could imagine how the palace offered shade, privacy and some fresh air in the stifling heat and the opportunity for women to chat by the many small, bay windows. It is is truly a beautiful and impressive structure.

Then I imagined how the many beautiful ladies-in-waiting in their richly decorated colorful attire would have watched the hustle and bustle on the street through these small, 20 × 20 cm windows. Certainly the building offered them protection from the dirt and the wildness of the street as they were privileged to be able to live there in luxury. But, at the same time, they were not allowed to leave this palace.

From today's perspective, one would say that they lived in a golden cage. They were not allowed to leave the palace nor pursue their own lives on their own. Were they free to choose their own partner? Look for a job? Live independently? Own a business? No.

Equality between women and men was centuries away and even today it unfortunately has still not arrived in enough many minds and cultures. Too many girls continue to be dominated by families and/or society today and education is withheld from them. In some places, women are still considered to be of less value than men and their position is far too often reduced to the few known role clichés.

How can mankind come into balance if one half does not meet the other half heartily at eye level, but views females as being inferior?

I am very fascinated by other cultures and I am convinced that people have always found and will continue to find diverse concepts for personal satisfaction and happiness. But I would not have wanted to be the girl/young woman who is standing in front of a beautiful, brightly colored window within a palace and not allowed outside because an 'authority' forbid it out of a lust for power or a misguided protective instinct or even because of the idea of possession. I would have wanted to have the opportunity to choose my own path and to decide freely when and where my fascination for this world would take me.

I adore the freedom and right to self-determination, including the responsibility that goes with it. I wish every person – and above all – every girl and woman, the courage to free themselves (internally and externally) from structures that are not hers, or not serving her well. Thinking further, I would like to motivate individuals (not only women, of course) to free themselves from strange and outdated structures and instead independently and consciously create and establish their own, new and contemporary structures. Could not true, co-creation between the sexes also be the key to finally bringing mankind into balance with our home planet?

Meaningful and healthy structures that are creatively and consciously-lived are so much better! Are you aware of your own power to transform yourself? How do you want to be? How do you wish the world you live in? What are you specifically contributing to this? 

The multiple exposures of the windows of the Palace of the Winds for me symbolize the manifold possibilities in life, which only emerge when one dares to go outside through the veil, interacts, and freely chooses one's path between manifold possibilities, while at the same time one is aware that everyone and everything is connected with one another.

-Nabiha Dahhan