Wallada: Medieval Arab Lesbian Ancestor
This print is a portrait of me as my medieval Arab Muslim Spanish princess lesbian ancestor, Wallada. In my research to uncover ancestral Arab lesbians, I came across the remarkable Wallada bint al-Mustakfi, daughter of an 11th century caliph of Cordoba (the capital of Islamic al-Andalus). According to scholar Sahar Amer’s groundbreaking article on the topic, “Medieval Arab Lesbians and Lesbian Like Women,” Wallada defied conventions, and she was said to have openly entertained two male lovers (Ibn Zaydun and Ibn Abdus) as well as one female lover (Mohja). Wallada was a poet and hostess of a literary salon. She had the following two verses embroidered on her coat (which are rendered in Andalusian style calligraphy on the figure’s body in my image.) “By God, I am fit for greatness and stride along with great pride I allow my lover to reach my cheek, and I grant my kiss to whomever I please.” I was so excited to learn that Wallada’s lover’s name was the same as my actual mother’s that I called my mom to share the news. My mother was no stranger to this amazing historical lesbian–her own artistic work had also been inspired by Wallada. “Obviously I know who Wallada is” mama told me, “her lover is my namesake!” As if by magic, I was thus connected in literal and metaphysical ancestry to Wallada and her lover, like a gay future baby! Wallada’s unapologetic pride and bitchy refusal to adhere to convention and gender/sexual norms of the time plus her magical connection to my actual ancestry inspired this piece.