Scratched Identities

Scratched Identities




Start: October 11 - 10:00 am

End: November 17 - 06:00 pm


South Side Community Centre

117 Nicolson Street, Newington, EH8 9ER

Newington, Edinburgh, GB, EH8 9ER

An exhibition that talks about strong, successful women who are forced to hide their own identities due to enforced community constraints.

‘Scratched Identities’ is an exhibition by Yemeni artist in exile Shatha Altowai that talks about strong, successful women who are forced to hide their own identities due to the community constraints that are imposed on them.

In Shatha’s words:

‘I have asked Yemeni women to send me their own pictures and I have explained the purpose of it. They were excited and encouraged to sent me their own photos. Some of them can’t reveal their identity, while others can. Not to forget to mention that someone told me that she couldn’t do it before but she finally retrieved her own identity.

There are a lot of issues that I could highlight through my paintings while I was in Yemen. However, there are certain topics I wished to discuss but whenever I wanted to paint it, I hesitated, because it is considered as a sensitive matter and the people’s reaction is un guaranteed.

So I am here in Edinburgh, with a freedom of expression, I had more courage and confidence to release what’s in my head.

Before I explain about the exhibition, I want to tell you a small story that happened to me, and it was the beginning of everything…

When I was 10 years old, in the sixth grade as I remember and while I was carrying my certificate with my little tiny picture stapled to it, I went with a pride to my classmate to show off my results. I was so happy because I got the second place in the class.

My classmate was older than me with one year or a bit more than that.

When I went to have a look at her grades I was surprised to see a flowerish sticker on her personal photo that was stapled on her certificate and when I asked her why did you put that sticker!? I remember she told me that she is a grown up woman now and no one can see her face!

And that was the shock for me, I was extremely surprised and due to my younge age that was the first time for me to realise that there is a difference between women and men in certificates in our society.

Of course, a man can show this identity until his last days, but for a women in some families, she must hide or cover her own identity when she reachs a certain age. Lucky ones are those who came from open minded families that are proud of their daughter’s identity. And for the rest, women are considered as a shaming bomb, if their identity was leaked in the wrong hands.

For a moment, I did not want to grow up! So I don’t have to cover or scratch my own identity.

Unfortunately, the cycle of fear was not restricted on documents or in paperwork. It expanded until it reaches the digital world like social media, smart phones, applications etc.

And because I am a woman, I had to hide my own identity for a very long time, and I fought with all my strength to get it back and be proud of it!!

Yes, I wanted to give that small light and strength to those who are still afraid to appear, for those who are still wanting to say I am here.

The idea of the scratched identities exhibition is to give support, solidarity and to wave that there is a problem here…

Beacuse, unfortunately the faces of those women that covered with the emojis which I have seen recently over the Internet is only the updated version of the flowerish sticker that I have seen 20 years ago!

It is sad to see those beautiful women are hiding and afraid to shine…

It is very painful to see those beautiful women are covering their own identity as an act of normality without wondering why.

If we identify the problem, then the solution will be found.

For where I am, I wanted to add to the exhibition a sort of societal experience.

“Talking about a problem, it is not like when you experience it”

So, besides of my paintings, I wanted to give the exhibition a touch of reality and be closer to the community.

To women in particular.

In term of the societal experience here in Edinburgh, I have asked some women with different culture and backgrounds to give their support and solidarity to any woman who has gone through all of this; “We are here to support you, get up and restore your own face”.

For access information, please contact Art27 Scotland at

BSL and other language support is available on request.

This event is supported by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (University of Edinburgh) and the Artist Protection Fund. An initiative of Institute of International Education, the Artist Protection Fund (IIE-APF) fills a critical unmet need by protecting threatened artists and placing them at welcoming host institutions in safe countries where they can continue their work and plan for their futures. IIE-APF places these artists in safe havens for a full year and provides fellowship funding, mentoring, and inclusion in a comprehensive network of artistic and social support.

Art27 Scotland is part of the Culture Collective at Southside Community Centre.

Art27 Scotland is funded by Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government.

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