Arab, Lebanese and American artist, Feda Eid, has created a series of photographs and collages titled Made in USA. In the series, she uses her self-portrait and all things related to herself as a way to understand and chart a contemporary American identity for individuals from Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) backgrounds, as well as for the broader community of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). An American identity that is frequently labelled as a diverse melting pot and yet is at the same time a breeding ground for divisive discrimination and Islamophobia.

With Made in USA, Eid believes that by sharing her story, she can help broaden the larger public’s perspectives, helping them feel and understand the shared universal values of familial bonds, kindness and love that connects all of humanity, despite racial or cultural backgrounds. This reflects the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Reduced Inequalities.

Picnic by Feda Eid, part of the Made in USA series. Image courtesy of Feda Eid’s website.

For Eid, the series’ title is a reflection of the discomforts she has felt for most of her life as an American-born Muslim. A reflection of the irony of being quite literally “Made in USA”, but constantly being made to feel like she is not worthy of the label. These discomforts worsened during her teenage years as she navigated the flood of post-9/11 Islamophobia in the USA. A flood of hate so strong that when she was fifteen, a classmate approached her with a knife under the guise of “protecting his country.”

”What happened after I can barely remember, […] If this was his country, then what country was I from? That question would be reinforced many times throughout my life as I tried to be at home in a place where I never felt at home,” said Eid.

Artificial Sweetener by Feda Eid, part of the Made in USA series. Image courtesy of Feda Eid’s website.

One of the first pieces in the series is Artificial Sweetener, a close-up photo of Eid with a pink fabric rose in her mouth. The rose is simultaneously a symbol of heritage and heirlooms, while also being the national flower of the USA. For Eid, the flower stands as a symbol of the convoluted thoughts that have come to define Made in USA. These thoughts include questions about whether or not she can take pride in being born in soils that have witnessed massacres, colonization and a seemingly endless wave of hatred towards BIPOC people.

Photograph part of the Made in USA series by Feda Eid, containing spilled coffee and a burnt book which shows a photograph of Eid’s parents in front of the Statue of Liberty. Image courtesy of Feda Eid’s website.

At the same time, she is reminded of her parent’s journey — Lebanese immigrants who fled the country’s civil war in 1982. ”My parents had a style that could not be emulated, never forced or assimilated, just them,” said Eid.

So she began to use her parents’ fabrics, textiles and clothes in her photographs. This is especially apparent in her piece Making Rose Water Out Of Roses. Everything from her mother’s abayas to her father's traditional collared robes appear in her photographs as evidence of her complex history; helping her make her version of what Made in USA means, as if ‘making rose water out of roses’ as her piece suggests. 

One particularly stunning piece within Eid’s Made in USA series is a photograph of a corn field with a red barn on the horizon. A stunning image that thanks to pop culture media like Stephen King’s books and movies, along with film and literary staples like The Wizard of Oz, is recognized by people across the globe as Americana, a series of objects that have come to define an American culture and identity.

However, unlike most Americana images, Eid’s cornfield contains a single keffiyeh, a traditional Arabic scarf which has been nonchalantly laid out as if it had been blown by the wind and had landed precariously on the cornfield. Darker minds might even imagine that it’s been forcefully torn from whoever had been wearing it in a hate attack. Either way, it shows that Muslim people too, are a part of the American landscape.

Photograph part of the Made in USA series by Feda Eid. Image courtesy of Feda Eid’s website.

The keffiyeh has also long been a symbol of Palestinian resistance. In light of the recent Israeli occupation of Gaza, Palestine, Eid has also shared that she wishes her series, Made in USA could also remind people to empathize with Palestinians; and to stand together in solidarity and support of a ceasefire.

You can find out more about Made in USA and other pieces by Feda Eid by following their Instagram @fedaeid.

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