Kuwait: A gay Kuwaiti artist who uses his body as canvas to express Arab identity says he does so bring the art of sexuality, eroticism and sensuality, back to the Arab-Islamic world.
The work of Tareq Sayed Rajab de Montfort, an openly gay Kuwaiti-born artist, deals with Arab identity.
It emphasis the grace of men and the strength of women, together with components of his own identity: Arabness, Islam, masculinity, queerness, femininity, reports haaretz.com.
His one one-man exhibition, “The Arab Unbound,” was shown in London in February and is now showing at “The Window” in Paris.
“I want to bring the art of sexuality, of eroticism and sensuality, back to the Arab-Islamic world,” De Montfort told haaretz.com.
For him there is no difference between religious ritual and sexual ritual as both bring people close to divinity, he says.
De Montfort uses his body as a canvas with tattoos including verses from the Qur’an, various symbols and some of the names of Allah.
He says he plans to tattoo all 99 names of Allah, according to Islamic tradition, on his body, together with the 72 names of God according to Jewish kabbalistic tradition.
He regards his art, together with his work, religious ritual, body and soul as one, and all of them are one with divinity.
This approach corresponds to the idea of God’s oneness, which is highly significant in Islam. This is how de Montfort says he understands and experiences Islam, in contrast to the way the sages of Islamic law interpret the Qur’an and Sharia.
De Montfort was born in Kuwait and spent much of his time in his family’s large museum, the Tareq Rajab Museum in Kuwait City, which contains more than 30,000 items of Arabic calligraphy, Islamic art, jewelry and more, which his parents collected.
At 17, de Montfort moved to London, where he studied art at University of the Arts London.
“Kuwait is stifling (and) the gay scene is very tough and unforgiving,” he explains.
“Homosexuality is forbidden in Kuwait,” he said, “but it’s actually quite prevalent, even among straight men, to have sex with other men (because) having sex with a man does not necessarily make you gay,” he said.
De Montfort says he has no problem with his own gay identity but has not been in contact with his conservative father for years even though he rest of his family know and accept his sexual identity. He recently visited his family in Kuwait and gave a class in an art school there for the first time, he said.