Yasmina Hilal, On Self-Love, Mothers, and Grandmothers
April 13, 2023
Yasmina couldn’t truly love herself until she felt that she was an extension of her mother and grandmother. Thus, her latest artwork, ‘I See Myself in You,’ was born.
Yasmina sits on a white bed in front of a cotton-candy pink wall. “My grandmother redesigned this room to be mine after it used to be my grandfather’s office, and it’s now my favorite place in the world.”
Yasmina’s grandmother’s house is located in the Ramlat Al-Bayda area near the breezy Beirut sea. She used to wander and play in this house without paying much attention to her surroundings. However, over time, she gradually realized that her grandmother had turned the family home into a poem. With every antique vase, artistic painting, and the old white sofa adorned with floral pink cushions, her grandmother had created her own art. As the years went by, this place became an intimate refuge and a source of inspiration for her granddaughter, Yasmina.
The young collage artist captured some shots of ‘I See Myself in You’ specifically in this house. Yasmina wore a blue velvet dress, which was her mother’s wedding dress, as well as her grandmother’s engagement dress—a white one adorned with black roses and rhinestones. “My mother and grandmother would always tell me, ‘I see myself in you.’”
Yasmina’s love for fashion reminded her grandmother, Huda, of her famous store, Beverly Hills, which she opened in the 1960s in the Clemenceau area of Beirut. Huda is a woman who loves to take care of her appearance, and to this day, she still runs her hand through Yasmina’s coppery curly hair—the same color as hers—and tells her, “Your hair is messy, my dear. Always take care of yourself.” As for Natalie, Yasmina’s mother, she sees herself in her daughter’s art. She is a photographer and collage artist, currently on a break from work, and she was the one who introduced her daughter to the world of photography and gave her that amazing black machine—her first camera, a Canon Film AE1.
But the most valuable thing Yasmina learned from her mother is strength. “My mother always comforts me on my difficult days. She lifts my chin with her hand and says to me, ‘Be strong.’”
Yasmina’s relationship with her mother was not always smooth. However, they quarantined together during the COVID-19 pandemic; sharing their morning coffee, going on walks, and watching Turkish series together. This is how their relationship strengthened. “We both made an effort,” says Yasmina. “We wanted to become closer.” But she adds, “I know that some relationships with mothers are difficult. I am lucky that my relationship with my mother is good now, but I am aware that many young women my age struggle with toxic relationships with their mothers, or they have no relationship at all. That’s why I sympathize with them.”
Natalie, Yasmina’s mother.
The past few years have brought about changes in Yasmina, and the roles played by her mother and grandmother have been pivotal throughout. “As I grow older, I become more mature and more accepting of myself. When I feel that I am both my grandmother, mother, and Yasmina at the same time, I love this mixture. I am nothing without them.”
Yasmina inherited from the women in her family their relationship with their hands. “I learned the craft of handwork from my family. I can’t just think, I have to hold things in my hands and feel them,” says Yasmina. “Even today, I try to distance myself from technology in my creative work. I love shooting with traditional film, not digitally. I enjoy developing my photos in the darkroom. That’s what I learned from my mother.”
In her second art exhibition recently held in Brussels, Belgium, we see photos of Yasmina and six young women wearing the clothes of their grandmothers, mothers, and aunts, or in their homes. These collage photos are anything but traditional. Yasmina does not seek to create perfection through them; rather, she tries to evoke a feeling in those who view them.
“Yasmina wearing her grandmother’s engagement dress in her artwork ‘I See Myself in You.’”
In the Levantine dialect, the phrase ‘I see myself in you’ means that you feel a closeness to someone and that this person represents you to the point of identification. It also means that you are proud of them. Yasmina calmly says, “I see myself in my mother and grandmother, and they see themselves in me. I am proud of them, and I feel that they are proud of me. For me, this is the definition of happiness.”
*’I See Myself in You’ is the second art exhibition by Lebanese artist Yasmina Hilal and her first outside Lebanon, held in Brussels, Belgium, in collaboration with Zalfa Halabi Art Gallery and as part of the Menart Fair activities.
Written by: Ryan Al-Ramal