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‘Walk A Mile In Her Veil’, Yazmeen Sabri, 2016
‘Walk A Mile In Her Veil’, Yazmeen Sabri, 2016Courtesy the artist

Artist’s burka sculpture gets vandalised by drunk racist

Yasmeen Sabri’s ‘Walk A Mile In Her Veil’ was torn apart by an offended Brexiter while on display at London’s RCA

An art student was left shaken last month after her end-of-year sculpture – worth £6000 – was vandalised by an intoxicated 70-year-old woman.

The piece, titled “Walk A Mile In Her Veil”, was created by RCA grad Yasmeen Sabri for her final show, and consists of a full-length burka on a metal support. Visitors were encouraged to try on the traditional Islamic garment in a bid to understand the “cultural, social, and feminist” motives behind it.

Unfortunately, this plan backfired on June 29, when Sabri’s piece was attacked by a drunk woman shouting “We voted to take our country back” and “Saudi Arabia go home.” 

“The lady was looking at my work and asked me to try on of the head scarves on display on,” Sabri tells Dazed. “And as I put it on her head she started yelling and that's how it begun.”

The woman, known as Mikaela Haze, apparently began to tear apart the piece while it was on display at South Kensington’s RCA, before then knocking it to the ground. She has since pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated criminal damage, and is set to be sentenced for the act this week.

The incident happened just days after the UK’s landmark Brexit vote; a period which saw racially-motivated hate crimes spike by up to 500 per cent. For Sabri, there is an “obvious” connection between the two events. “I do feel the vote has given people the green light to vocalise bigotry,” she says, with disappointment. “My concerns are that people don't realise the negative effect of social and mass media and the way it manipulates our perception. And we further decline into bigotry and hate.”

Haze has since apologised, and has admitted that the act wasn’t ever meant to be seen as “racist”. She has reportedly posted conditional bail, and will receive her sentence tomorrow (July 27).

Sabri adds that, while the sculpture was meant to “raise questions and create dialogue”, it was never meant to be seen as provocative. “As an Arab Muslim woman, I was deeply hurt by the stigmatisation people were having towards the veil,” she adds. “People are either strongly for it or against it, and tend to misunderstand the reasonings behind it.”

The artist was eventually able to repair the sculpture, and “Walk A Mile In Her Veil” is now on display at London’s Somerset House as part of the venue’s new Walking Women program.