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Photo Art magazine First 2012 : Ampannee Satoh , fights for rights of Islamic fashionistas

Last April, the French Government passed a law banning the public wearing of the burqa – the full-faced covering of Muslim women. Ampannee Satoh, 28, a Thai student of photography in France, felt oppressed by such a law and decided to show her disagreement by ordering several custom-made burqas from her home town of Yarang, Pattani and posing in them in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and other landmarks, letting the colourful burqas fl oat on the wind and dance in the sunshine. This eye-catching series of thought-provoking photographs will be on view at Kathmandu Photo Gallery from August 5 to September 25.

How do you see your role as a photographer?
I believe that photographs do not only record events or memorable moments, but that we can also express our intentions, feelings and subconscious minds through them. Photography can cast a spell on people and make them stop and focus directly on a subject.

Do you feel any social or religious responsibility as a young female Muslim photographer?
Yes; with this series I’m standing up for Muslim women’s rights – saying that they should have the right to choose. When the rights of people in a society are limited by laws, when human feelings are repressed, I don’t think that’s right. We should share spaces and respect one another, not introduce laws that infringe on other people’s own faith and rights.

How did you feel as a young Muslim woman living in Europe as compared to Thailand?
Thai women are lucky – we can choose what religious practices we want to perform and whether to wear a veil or not. This is different from what is happening in some European countries, which on the surface appear to offer the freedom to think and to live but, in my opinion, don’t in practice. The old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ comes to mind.

You come from Pattani in Thailand’s Deep South. Has life altered signifi cantly during the years of violent political instability there?
The tragedies that have happened in my hometown in Pattani are indescribable. The mental pain in our family, among our brothers, sisters and relatives is just too deep to put it into words.

The Burqa series hasn’t been shown in France yet. Are there any plans to exhibit it there?
Definitely if an opportunity comes, but as of yet the plan to exhibit it in France isn’t fi nalised. Certainly, an exhibition there would be the natural home for this work.

Both Burqa and your previous series Muslimah feature Muslim women as the central subject. Will your next series maintain this thematic focus?
Muslimah tackled the subject of Muslim women in the three border provinces in the South, while Burqa is a call for the rights of Muslim women in France. In the future I want to focus on other rights surrounding Muslim women. It’s not only my rights that are being diminished, but the rights of Muslim women all around the world. They deserve justice, equality and freedom too.

How is your new position as a teacher of photography at Bangkok’s Rangsit university?
Being a teacher is not only about teaching; it also allows you to exchange knowledge with your students and learn from them. Teaching there helps inspire my photographic creations.

Which photographers past and present do you admire and why?
Henri Cartier-Bresson has been my hero since my childhood. Although they were taken a long time ago his photos continue to move me.