Rand Jarallah: The Palestinian Artist Who Turned Makeup Into Activism
March 23, 2018|Zoralis Pérez
Her makeup looks are both impressive and hard to look at.
When you think about activism, makeup is probably the last thing to come to mind, but Rand Jarallah is changing that. Born and raised in Palestine, she is a young “artivist,” who creates extreme makeup looks to tell stories and create awareness about problems that affect 21st-century women around the world. Using only her face and makeup skills, she is single-handedly crushing two stereotypes that limit the way we think about makeup and activism: one, that makeup is anti-feminist, and two, that it can’t say anything of value. As she explains in her own bio:
"Makeup is perceived as a dis-empowering machine to women because it's marketed as a way to conform to society's beauty standards and to cover up our so-called insecurities… However, I aim to break the stereotype and show that makeup is neither inherently sexist nor feminist; the products themselves can be used as artistic tools to deliver messages based on the artist’s preference."
Metamorphosis of Pollution (Source: Randistic)
Gender Based Violence (Source: Randistic)
A good place to start getting to know Jarallah and her work is this video, called “Reversing the Trend.” It was released in 2016 as part of the “Sixteen Voices for Change” campaign run by the UNFPA (United Nations Populations Fund) to educate and raise awareness about gender-based violence. In only 52 seconds, Jarallah is able to make a lasting point about a truly worrying statistic: that 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetime. The video starts with a close-up shot of her face looking bloody and battered, representing the millions of women who are victims of violence around the world. Then, the video is reversed, so that we see Jarallah creating and at the same time undoing the makeup; a deceivingly simple yet compelling technique to ask viewers to “reverse the trend.”
Apart from the clear message it conveys about gender-based violence and the urgency of this worldwide problem, the video’s power comes from the emotions expressed in Jarallah’s face. As viewers, we are also witnesses of her anger, pain, sadness, and frustration. This is what makes her form of activism not only effective, but also artistic, and it’s an essential characteristic of her work. As she explains in an interview with Vogue Arabia:
"I have always been a feminist, so I was ashamed to admit that I loved cosmetics, but as I got older, I realized that makeup isn’t inherently sexist or misogynistic. It’s art."
Break the Silence (Source: Randistic)
Gender (Source: Randistic)
In addition to the “Reversing the Trend” video, Jarallah is best known for her photography project, which also uses makeup to denounce problems that affect women. For her photos, she creates unique and eye-catching looks that capture the essence of these issues and communicate the feelings they inspire in her as an artist and a woman. For this reason, some of the images can be hard to look at. On one hand, Jarallah’s makeup technique can produce incredibly realistic looks that resemble actual wounds, so they’re definitely not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, there is the emotional aspect, which is what makes these images powerful in the way that the viewer can’t look away or ignore the gravity of the problem.
Reproductive Health and Rights (Source: Randistic)
Safe Birth © UNFPA/Rand Jarallah
Her makeup looks tackle issues that affect mostly women, such as: child marriage, reproductive health and rights, acid attacks, and of course, gender-based violence. However, Jarallah also calls attention to the way other problems that affect society in general (like environmental issues, war, and the food industry) affect women doubly: as citizens and women. This point is particularly important to make because many people tend to forget that women’s oppression and vulnerability in a patriarchal system hurts them always, and even more so when society in general is threatened.
Child Marriage (Source: Randistic)
Menstrual Cycle (Source: Randistic)
As a young woman, a person of color, and a Palestinian, Rand Jarallah’s “artivism” is not only worth following, but also necessary. She gives a voice and a face to issues that are not being addressed as urgently as they should, proving once more you don’t need a lot to speak up for the causes you believe in. In her own words, for an interview with Marie Claire magazine:
"Growing up as a woman in a world that bombards you with messages of a patriarchal nature, where women are constantly objectified, it’s hard not to objectify yourself at the same time. I used to use so many tools to cover up my insecurities – one of which was make up. It took me a while to overcome these insecurities and challenge this culture, and today I use make up to bring awareness to the issues I’m passionate about instead."
March is the month to share stories and raise awareness of issues concerning girls and women all over the world. You can find out more about the different initiatives happening here.
Cover image: War © UNFPA/Rand Jarallah