Chiara Ferronato

2015 - 2017


On 2nd January 1492 the sultanate of Granada, Spain, fell to the hands of Catholic monarchs, after nearly 800 years of Arab-Islamic rule. It was the end of Al-Andalus, or Islamic Iberia.

Nowadays, echoes of an ancient Muslim presence can be found among a community that freely chose Islam over Christianity as their religion and Granada as their home. Between July 2015 and March 2017, I decided to approach some members of this group – in particular, a few ladies either born to Muslim converts or who converted later on their own.

At a time when "Europe" and "Islam" as terms are often set in conflict, the peaceful synchrony of these women in the environs of Granada was a testament to a bygone era. I wanted to hear their stories and at the same time offer a broader view on their aesthetics, an alternative to mainstream representations of Muslim women as demeaned, victimized, or exoticised subjects who cannot always express themselves and their own femininity.

My intention was then to show how these women live in harmony with the surrounding environment and embody a possible coexistence of Islamic and European culture. Historically, Islam has reflected the indigenous culture of places where it developed. European Islam is no exception to this: the way these women are Muslim is influenced by their being European and Spanish. They nurture their Islamic faith and live under Spanish laws; they follow the local fashion trends adjusting them to Islamic values; they are not segregated to peripheral areas of the city. Rather, they represent an active and visible presence of Granada’s landscape.

At this perilous moment in European and Arab-Islamic history, the presence of these Muslim women of Granada thus stands in contrast to an emerging fortress Europe. This series aims to shed light onto a reality that dissolves and questions cultural borders and gender roles in favour of a peaceful cohabitation of different values and more complex identities. Through the images of these women, I seek to add a tiny piece to the ever-changing puzzle of human geography.

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  • Layla, Shifa and Tasnim during a walk in Granada. In the background stands the Alhambra, a fortified citadel and the fortress of the Muslim Nasrid dinasty that ruled Granada's Sultanate from 1232 (year of the Alhambra's construction) to 1492.

  • Women and men pray outdoors in separate groups to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

  • Farah, her husband Ilan and their baby boy in the camping van they bought in order to do musical tours in Spain and Europe. Ilan is a South African musician that converted to Islam after meeting Farah, who lived in Cape Town 11 years.

  • Farah goes for a walk with her son on a hill overlooking Granada.

  • Tasnim, her husband Khalid and their children Yasin and Bashir. Tasnim and Khalid are from Barcelona and have lived in Granada since 2010. They are married by Muslim law, but their marriage has no value for the Spanish government.

  • Shifa with her husband Abd al-Hakim and their children. Shifa was born a Muslim within a British family and is the second wife of Abd al-Hakim, who converted to Islam in the 80's. They are married by Muslim law, but their marriage isn't recognised by the Spanish government.

  • The Alhambra as seen from the Sacromonte, a neighbourhood traditionally inhabited by the local gypsies.

  • Friends watching a bullfight during the celebrations of Id al-Adha, in a ranch outside Granada. None of the bulls involved in the show were killed or wounded.

  • Tasnim and Shifa chanting a diwan in a forest next to Granada. A diwan is a collection of verses by poets or shaykhs (community spiritual leaders) dedicated to God.

  • Fatima, a professional horse rider, at the ranch were she works whenever her daily duties allow her to.

  • Fatima at home with her son Harun.

  • A typical "casa cueva" or cave house in the Sacromonte neighbourhood. Cuevas are traditionally inhabited by local gypsy families or are used as venues to host flamenco shows. This one belongs to a Muslim family from Granada. They were among the first people in town to convert to Islam in the 80’s.

  • Zahara playing with her daughter’s flamenco dress in her parents’ "casa cueva".

  • Zahara and her husband in her parents’ living room.

  • Nadia and Abd Al-Qadir celebrating their Islamic wedding at Granada’s Major Mosque. The couple had already been together for 10 years and have a two-year old daughter, who was also present at the ceremony, along with the local imam and the witnesses, as indicated by Sharia law.

  • A conversion in the gynaeceum of Granada’s Major Mosque during Ramadan.

  • A girl running in the courtuyard of Granada’s Major Mosque.

  • The Sacromonte hill at night.