Thursday, March 24, 2011
Asma al-Assad: the desert rose peddled
Earlier this month, my daughter gave me her copy of Vogue. I’m writing for a fashion designer and Vogue is an important magazine of the art form and trade. Research homework. Go ahead and grin, she did. Inside the issue, there’s an article about Asma al-Assad, Syria’s first lady. Given recent news, this article, while timely and poignant, is actually more of a window into us as it is into her life, her country, and her "style".
Fashion seeks people to wear beautiful things meant for the body. The fashion industry looks to people of position, public figures, and dresses them both physically and euphemistically. We can be just like them. Designers create personal architecture, beautiful spaces we can wear. Asma looks beautiful in the main photograph gazing over venerable sacred historic Damascus, a seeming new face of the future, beautiful in a very European Milan-ish couture way despite the author’s sentiment that she’s unadorned. Hardly.
Syria frays at the hem, coming undone, “old” inherited power models which aren’t really that old (post not-so-Great War One Balfour dysfunctionality and artificiality). Enough about them. They shall “self-determine” in their own determined ways with power to the people yet to win. This is about us. This article, read by people in the West, primarily women, says very little. Who remembers Asma’s father-in-law? Who remembers the worry of Soviet-influenced potential nuclear proliferation and ornery influence in the region? Irrelevant history. In fact, it’s not even history in the minds of the majority of readers. Most will never visit Syria. She looks stunning and radiant.
The winds of revolution radiated today from Daraa (spelled many ways), in southwest Syria situated near the border with Jordan. Water and its scarcity there but one of the issues of discontent underpinning the thirst for a new type of political freedom. Lack of water is horrible for the skin after all. But, we Vogue readers know that.
Vogue peddled Asma in a lovely way for us, painted a wondrous picture of a new Syria, coiffed, not veiled, secular and wrinkle free. We bought it. Syria didn’t.
Photograph by James Nachtwey, Vogue, March 2011 issue...James is a wonderful photojournalist, having seen tough stuff, wars, warts and all...which makes this article even more...what's the word? Absurd?