Zone Stories: The Sisters Project is Humanizing the Narratives of Muslim Women
Alia Youssef is an inspiring mind with an insightful eye. An IMA Photography graduate from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communications and Design, Alia portrays story through her photography. A Muslim immigrant to Canada, Alia and her family emigrated from Egypt when she was 7-years-old. Doing what an artist does best, Alia uses her art to bring understanding into the human context. By shedding light on misconstrued Muslim identity, often shrouded by stereotype, Alia seeks to challenge the diminishing narratives that stigmatize what it is to be a Muslim woman living in our current political climate.
Enrolled in Zone Learning‘s Transmedia Zone, Alia started developing The Sisters Project. By exhibiting photography of a diversity of Muslim women’s experiences, the project aims to counter reductive narratives that homogenize Muslim women’s experiences. The Sisters Project demonstrates that “agency and individuality is broadly present in Islam, intrinsically and extrinsically, in the everyday lives of women across the globe.”
To further quote, Alia: “The displacement from the feminine of my culture and religion lead me to an unending search for critical understanding and emotional connection to the women of my bloodline, and subsequently the women of my culture and religion. My environmental portraits allow me to connect to and explore, relationships, personalities, and mindsets of my family and the communities I am a part of.”
Individuality and agency are fundamental human rights; in this project, Alia captures the multiple narratives that exist in individuals — they are powerful, important and edifying to witness.
The portraits that make up this project show Canadian Muslim women doing and creating, showing their abilities, and excelling on all levels in their communities. Whether a kinesiology student considering medical school, an ESL teacher who eases immigrants into Canadian life, or the program manager of Ecotrust working tirelessly to preserve the British Columbian rainforest, these women make up the fabric of contemporary Canada. This project subverts labels and false associations, counters voicelessness and lack of agency, and shows women in control of their lives.
In 2016, Alia Youseff was awarded the Dr. Julius Lukasiewicz Award for “producing photographic work that reflects the unique ability of photography to capture images which normally escape the naked eye, and with the touch of a finger, record beauty as it exists everywhere.” Other awards, acknowledgments and appearances include the First Edition Photobook Award, later purchased by Ryerson Archives + Special Collections, and, most recently, Alia was invited by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to attend Malala Yousafzai’s Citizenship Ceremony on April 12, 2017. You can also find Alia Youseff and The Sisters Project on Instagram, BuzzFeed, The Ethnic Aisle, and Refinery29.