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The Sitarah and Mughmug

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

My research started with me asking my mother the question when I was young, "Who created the Sitarah?"

My mother answered, "Well when the British Colony came and colonized Aden, they brought Indians. Now it's on you to connect the dots” and then she continued working on her pottery.

The British Crown colony ruled Aden from 1937 to 1963.In the modern era, North Yemen was ruled by local kings until 1962, when the Yemen Arab Republic was established. The Indian population in Aden in 1955 was 15,817, and that helped answer the question of where the Sitarah design originated. The Sitarah was made in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, supposedly by Yemeni’s, who settled there.  

In association with the Sitarah, there is a pattern called Mughmug.It is a cloth used for covering the front space of the woman's face, and eyes are known as the Mughmug. There are red circles on the pattern, and those circles are eyes believedto repel the evil eye. The color red was used to protect against bleeding, especially in childbirth. They are separate from the Sana’a Sitarah and not the same.

I will be starting with my inner-self by deconstructing the traditional Yemeni way of living, taking that idea, and using it in my process of creating my work. I will recreate the traditional Yemeni patterns of the cultural design and redesign it. I'm trying to take "politics out of tradition" to enjoy the patterns as they are, not the trauma of what they stood for in the past. Starting with the Imam in the 879 - 1962, such as injustice, classism, gender, and fundamental human rights. Yemen is a country that follows religious laws and forces women to cover themselves. The Sitarah and Mughmug are worn together; one covers the face while the other covers the body. These are bigger than the regular Hijab and Abaya.

I want to consider the beauty of the pattern itself and repurpose it into something that is thought of as celebratory.

To recreate the design of the Sitarah and Mughmug, I started drawing on a piece of paper before switching over digitally. I incorporated things like leopard print due to the volume of leopards they hunt for fur every year. Many households in Yemen hang the fur on their walls or lay it on their floors to walk on. I also incorporate skulls to represent the loss of many people due to the war. I used the same traditional colors and combined both Sitarah and Mughmug in one. I then proceeded to print them onto a 55 X 55 inches Microfiber polyester.  I choose polyester a synthetic petroleum based fiber and it can take over 200 years to decompose. Yemen is known for producing around 110,000 barrels of oil a day.


United Nations,“Yemen: Republican Decree, By Law No. 12 for 1994, Concerning Crimes and Penalties.”(Refworld. April 5, 2020.)

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