The latest collection of work in the partnership between Magnum Photos and Obscura is available now. Sabiha Çimen’s ‘Transfiguration: The Double Life of Şeyma’ has been created as a collection of Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Here, we share the photos from the project and an interview between Çimen and Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo.
In the interview – which can be read here – Çimen relates that she met Şeyma when working on her Hafiz project about Turkey’s girls-only Qur’an schools. She explains that upon graduation from the Qur’an school Şeyma chose to take off her headscarf, only putting it back on around family. This tension between contemporary culture and Muslim tradition in Turkey, as encapsulated by Şeyma’s “dual life”, is the driving force of this new work. Çimen explains to Ezzo that she sees Şeyma’s duality as a kind of resistance to cultural norms, with the work also exploring the rituals and traditions that are threaded through Turkish culture.
Çimen also provided the following statement about the project:
The impetus of this project grew out of my first book Hafız, about young girls who are memorizing the Quran in schools throughout Turkey. Some marry and have children soon after graduation, but some rebel and transform themselves in a radical way; Şeyma is one of those stories of Transfiguration.
This is a world known to me because l too studied in a Quran school with my twin sister in Istanbul when I was younger. When l returned to do my first long-term photographic project l sought out as familiar scenes and objects from my memory there and it was there that I met Şeyma and her unique and radical ways.
My projects usually deal with the Art of Resistance within my close circle of friends and family. In my last project the young girls’ trivialities and playfulness took center stage, and now as these girls enter into adulthood they are faced with living in a world of male dominance. Sometimes, as with Şeyma, there is a need for revenge with their new-found power over men and their money and habits; an inner strength coming from raw female intellect, and sexuality.
This time my project not only focuses on the girls’ stories, but lays within the context of a large city – Istanbul, with its multiple layers and meanings. l am trying to provide the viewer cause and effect by viewing the different strata simultaneously and between. In the story Şeyma l am portraying her world, her fantasies, her fears, hidden love stories, songs and signs, ancient traditions, religious black-outs, and her continued spirituality that was never lost even through her Transfiguration.
View the full collection of Sabiha Çimen’s Obscura Magnum Commission here.
The full interview can be read here.
To learn more about the Magnum Photos and Obscura commissions, and see the list for future releases, please click here.