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The Boundlessness of the 'Hair Flag'

Mutinies have lived long with their choice of symbolism, besides the preparation processes and chain of events. While they have always made the witnesses shudder with their existence, thinking about the sacrifices made for their own sake, symbols would deepen the senses. While mutinies were pretty enlightening about taking the road less traveled, symbols would perpetuate the message wanted to be given. The birth purpose of resistance is to be universal and centuries-old formations. This goal could only be achieved by offering society the opportunity to look back in time and refresh collective memories as time flies, and it has already been accomplished. One of the greatest representatives of this success occurred to be the work of art of “Ombre Indigene”, also known as the Hair Flag, by Edith Dekyndt in 2014.

This work of art came to light again with Iranian women in 2021-2022, which seems to remain on the main agenda for longer than expected. So, was the inspiration for the work based on the same year as its release, or could it have been received from the distant past? Here we unveil the origin of this article, as well as how it managed to survive in such independent geographies and time intervals. Perhaps, not as independent as thought.

Iranian women protesting
Free Iranian Women

Iran's penal code criminalizes women's appearance in public spaces without a ‘sharia hijab’. The offense is punishable by a fine, or imprisonment between ten days to two months. Despite officials’ admission that Iranians’ views are shifting, enforcement of the hijab remains an article of faith among hardliners. Government propaganda equates the observance of hijab with the preservation of family values and traditional social structures. It initiates harsh crackdowns against people who peacefully mobilize against them. Recently, the propaganda owners pronounced prolonged sentences against human rights defenders for peacefully opposing the hijab. Not being content enough with that and screening viral scenes of police violence against women who do not abide by compulsory hijab have contributed to public frustration and stoked political dissent.

Amid the government’s mounting inability to meet people’s basic needs, an increasingly abusive policy stays imposed and enforced with impunity by state agents. In that sense, the fate of Mahsa (Jina), a young woman wearing an outfit considered unremarkable to many, could befall many Iranian women or their loved ones. Protesters saw her death at the hands of morality police not as an accident, but due to a systemic pattern of brutal violence that is exercised with callousness. On the brink of what happened, the flag made of hair reached the sky once again after the hijabs were thrown and burned.

Now we shall return to the artist to look from her perspective. Before her design, she spent enough time analyzing hair work at the hands of Martinique women. It was renowned as a craft applied to bodies on an island called Martinique that attracts her attention. Surrounded by unique gestures, what is done by hand in this production process unleashes a unique imagination.

Vector illustration of young Iranian woman in hijab turning into fire
Vector illustration

The flag is depicted as follows from the eyes of Edith Dekyndt:

“Ombre Indigène was born from these encounters, blending with the writings, history, and life of the island. A hair flag was raised and then hoisted over the Diamond Coast cliffs on Martinique Island. On the night of April 8-9, 1830, at this very spot, a secret merchant ship carrying a hundred African prisoners ran

aground on the rocks before it was completely destroyed.”

Women's inner querying lead them to hair in various ways: by waving it, as a means of activism. It is rooted in helping a foreigner to make the island’s colonial past and the contemporary anthropological context of Martinique women’s art visible through her testimony. Now it is floating nearby the fire lit by Iranian women. Rather than being positioned as the product of mere design activity, it demonstrates its permanence between times and geographies. It evokes that it has become a political act that creates knots, twists, and breaks in the ordinary course of sovereign history.

Works cited:

JSTOR, Women in Iran: The Revolutionary Ebb and Flow by Nesta Ramazani -

5 Harfliler, Saçın Üç Hali: Bayrak, Peçe ve Gülle by Nalan Dağıstan

Edited by:

Melisa Altıntaş, Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu


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