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Lebanon: Lebanese artist Aya Haider reveals the hidden work of motherhood

Highly Strung is a long-term work that explores the notions of motherhood, domesticity and the invisibility of women’s work in the world. Through this painting produced over 365 days, Haidar has endeavoured to demonstrate the banal acts of women that shape their lives… An exhibition on a human scale that should not be missed!

A work made in 365 days 

Several clotheslines supporting an assortment of colourful clothes between two walls, this is the work of the Lebanese artist who combines a domestic space with a powerful message of female emancipation.

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For 365 days each day, the artist and mother of three embroidered a piece of used fabric and hung it on a clothesline as physical evidence of her daily tasks, including cleaning the house, making sure school uniforms were clean and ready to wear, pumping milk and feeding her children. 

An installation that celebrates maternal labour 

This thought-provoking installation about the role of mothers today celebrates the mundane, and often unacknowledged, work that mothers do every day. 

The labour force of motherhood is present 24 hours a day, underpaid and undervalued in society. We are like invisible workers” says Haider. “Women do a little, a little every day and you don’t come away with anything tangible.” 

It is therefore to give the invisible gestures of women their honour and quantify their services that the artist wanted to create this work. And Aya Haider went even further by having her work reflected in the price of the work. She took the minimum wage in the UK (£8.36 for people aged 21 or 22, or $11.59) and multiplied it by 24 hours and 365 days to set the price of the work, arriving at a figure of over $101,000. 

That’s its true value” she says.

Becoming a mother and living through the pandemic: the genesis of her work 

Since becoming a mother, women’s issues have been at the forefront of her work. “It is a blessing to be a mother, but the difficulties are often completely invisible or unspoken” she says. 

But the Covid-10 pandemic also has its part to play in the making of this work. “Highly Strung” highlights not only the unsung work of women, but also its effects on mothers.

The pandemic amplified everything I was feeling as a young mother” says Haider. 

After a day spent educating my children (aged 6, 4 and 2) at home, I would work on my art from 7pm to 1am. Art became my outlet and a way to make sense of the injustices of the world in these difficult times.”

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Published on 25 June 2021