Inspired by Muslim women in Lagos, Enshroud is an ongoing project that started in 2018, made up of images featuring the veil, primarily in an abstract sense, observing its forms, patterns, colors and its contribution to identity, self-expression and style. Nigeria is comprised of a population that is roughly half Muslim and half Christian, rendering the hijab a very visible symbol of faith, custom and style. Representations of hijabs today are incomplete without noting its position as a politically-charged symbol. This includes perceptions and realities surrounding the women who wear veils—garments which have a long and complex history that predates Islam. In ancient times, veils indicated a woman’s social status.

Today, the hijab is often reduced to a vilified symbol, rendering it a pawn in the nationalistic culture of fear. Women in hijab risk stereotyping, social exclusion, judgement and abuse. Many associate the veil with extremism and female suppression. These interpretations do not represent the complete story.

Many women who wear hijab feel it is a matter of choice and choose to do so to preserve their modesty and privacy, out of respect for their culture, religion and tradition. In the West, the veil has also come to symbolize a position against Islamophobia. Veiling in Nigeria is influenced by cultural style practices and reflects an affinity for bold colors, textures and patterns. As author Fadwa El Guindi states, “…the Western term ‘veil’ is indiscriminate, monolithic and ambiguous, as there are over 200 terms in the Encyclopedia of Islam for dress parts, many of which are used for veiling.” With burqa bans and countries banning veils and head coverings in schools, what the world sees as ‘socially acceptable’ in regards to religious and personal expression is yet to be defined.

In Enshroud, women dance, twirl and jump, their bold brilliant veils assuming colorful, abstract shapes. Set against colorful, patterned mats which are often used for prayer in Lagos, the women take on a carefree weightlessness, free from the politically charged anvil of judgement and politicization.

—Medina Dugger

Editor’s Note: Medina Dugger was selected as a Finalist in this year’s LensCulture Art Photography Awards. Be sure to check out the other Winners, Juror’s Picks and Finalists here.