The viewer of Lalla Essaydi’s works approaches these subjects from zir[1] own cultural and lived position and perspective, contingent upon individual circumstances including class, race, sexual orientation, and national status. From my perspective as a white, queer, cisgender[2] male walking into the Lalla Essaydi exhibition is overwhelming as it presents a variety of reads and interpretations.[3] The initial interpretation—as explained by most labels—explores the issues of Orientalism and the Veil. Yet, my queer eye evokes a read centered on deconstruction. This interpretation arises through a “queer mindset, which “is about decentering dominant belief systems, thinking critically about whose story is being told, from what perspective and for what purpose.”[4]  A queer mindset allows for an expanded read and contextualization of the work. It also complicates the clean and slick veneers of modernity as it asks the viewer to become actively engaged. The work of queer theorists Jasbir Puar and Judith Butler will serve as points of departure for this revised reading, grounded in the recent theory of Homonationalism and its critique of Orientalism coupled with the performance of gender in the veil. The following will map out historical, personal, and regional experiences, reactions and histories in relationship to Essaydi’s work.

[1] Zir: gender inclusive pronoun

[2] Cisgender is a term for people who’s gender identity matches their assigned gender at birth. More info:

[3] I will be highlighting my own identity and its interpretive experience as the participant and voyeur of the works to further de-centering the omniscient and objective Western gaze that is tied into Orientalism.

[4] Raven Hillferty. Queerology: A Syllabus. I Don’t Do Boxes: Queer Stories from the South. Elsewhere Museum. 2013