short film | portrait


[NSFW] Shedding Skin –– a portrait by Yumna Al-Arashi

In “Shedding Skin”, Yemeni-born, London-based artist Yumna Al-Arashi offers us a glimpse of life behind walls made of brick, mortar, clothing, words, laws, treaties, borders, and skin.

“I’ve come here time and time again. My body is a heavy one when I enter,” narrates Yumna in as the film opens on the scene of femme bodies tending to each other: hair is brushed, sponges are soaked, skin is lathered, and the space is shared quietly, unassumingly. Heaviness becomes heavier as the monologue continues: touching on femininity, sexuality, and conflict experienced in asserting it all.

“Still I bend, because I cannot be broken…Sometimes I rebel, sometimes I am quiet. I’m not entirely sure why either feels right…I, too, use my body to express myself. I, too, am every kind of sexual.”

Heaviness becomes heavier still as reference is made to the global forces that police bodies within her home country’s borders, so that—even in the imagined lull of steam rising and whispers floating through the bathhouse—we do not forget the greater context we’re in. 

“I am coming to the surface from an amnesia that has drowned so much of me.”

“Do you really see such a difference between you and me?”

Set in Beirut, Lebanon, the film was commissioned by international retailer ASOS, and accompanied a solo show photography of the same title in New York and LA in 2017. Minute by minute, it unravels like an ancient painting brought to life: feminine bodies outstretched in space and time, bathing themselves—all the while staring at some secret hovering waterlogged in their minds’ eyes.

Photographs from Shedding Skin. Follow more of Yumna’s work here.