American Muslim author and gender activist Samina Ali also sees art as a way of opening minds, as well as eliminating stereotypes and bridging divides. As the curator of the International Museum of Women’s virtual exhibition, Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices , Samina illuminated the multi-dimensional realities of women’s lives to challenge fears and misconceptions of Muslims and Islam within and beyond Muslim communities. There could not be a more poignant time for this kind of project. Regarding the exhibit, Samina told us :
Fire imagery suffuses the book. The fire that marks the edges of many poems defines the anger and hostility engendered by a patriarchal and racist society. Lorde learns to empower herself by using the fire of anger and despair to create her own vision of spiritual and sexual identity. Embarked on her own journey toward truth, Lorde proclaims in the poem “Summer Oracle” that fire—which she equates with a warming agent in a country “barren of symbols of love”—can also be a cleansing agent. Fire burns away falsehoods and lets truth arise.
I first came across her work in the early 1980s. I was in my twenties and was a freshly minted lesbian-feminist. I was fortunate to come out in a diverse cultural and political women’s community — which is what we called it then — which described a community based on the values of feminism and included lesbians, bisexual and heterosexual women and men of all stripes. I was fortunate to have seen Audre read in person several times, including in Philadelphia and at the Audre Lorde “I Am Your Sister” conference in Boston held in 1990 two years before she died of cancer at the age of 58.