In conversation with Samira Mahboub
Samira Mahboub is a gender scholar, performance artist and gorgeous international model born to a Moroccan father and German mother who grew up in Munich but currently travels between Europe and the U.S. She received her Bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, and earned her interdisciplinary Master’s in ‘Gender, Media and Culture’ at the LSE. Her research interest focuses on questions around postcolonial theory, gender, sexuality, and affect theory.
Her Master’s dissertation ‘Unveiling Tensions: Resistance and the Unthinkability of the Muslim Hipster (‘Mipster’)’ explores the signification of the ‘mipster’ veil within the context of the United States post 9/11. As part of an art duo working under the name SAMANIA, Samira and her partner Ania Catherine create interdisciplinary work that is grounded in political and social critique around the subjects of gender, sexuality, and coloniality.
She is a passionate backpacker, has a special connection to the desert, loves to read and is obsessed with jewelry from Morocco, Afghanistan and India.
Samira What ARE YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATIONS OR INFLUENCES?
Generally, I get inspired by people and Every time someone says something inspiring, I put a note in my phone as a quotation and think about the implication and larger sense of that statement.
SOME OF MY Strongest influencers are some of the theorists I studied such as :
Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir,
Michel Foucault, Judith Butler (she definitely is my biggest intellectual crush!), Edward Said,
Fatima Mernissi, Amina Wadud, Sara Ahmed.
More recently, I started getting very inspired by performance directions such as physical theatre (for example Pina Bausch) and performance art (one of the classic figures Marina Abramovic).
on a wider sense:
artists Shirin Neshat, Frida Kahlo
writers Susan Sontag, Nayyirah Waheed
fashion & photography (Anne Leibowitz, Tim Walker, Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton)
musical artists such as Tracy Chapman, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan… I have a weakness for music that is melancholic.
You are both an international model and performance artist, how did you get into both?
Modelling helped me finance my Master's and it was here that I met my creative partner Ania. We soon after began working as an art duo under the name SAMANIA. In 2014, we collaborated on our first film, " cloth" (which we directed and performed) and was featured in the International Museum of Women’s exhibition “Imagining Equality” and in the Huffington Post’s “5 Amazing Ways Women and Girls are Breaking Gender Stereotypes Worldwide”.
Our initial motivation to collaborate was a desire to visually translate subjects we studied into a medium that was digestible to a wider audience. We still incorporate our academic backgrounds into our work, bridging academia with art, performance, and film, and more recently have also used our daily life experiences and questions as inspiration.
Most interesting response or reaction to your performance art?
“I feel like I am watching something I am not supposed to watch and at the same time I am mesmerised’.
Many people feel challenged in their views/perceptions/ideas/values/ethics, and express the feeling of struggle and discomfort. SAMANIA is interested in disrupting and challenging mainstream perceptions/opinions/views. I like to look at our work as a medium that holds a mirror in front of you, but not a mirror that is supposed to be the morale police, rather a mirror that is stimulating new perspectives/thoughts and reflects different realities.
How do you view the fashion industry and modelling as a career?
Modelling to me always is a performance. A performance of concepts and - what I find more intriguing - a performance of authenticity.
I look at modelling as a fascinating way to discover myself via body language (constant medium of self-expression). It taught and still teaches me a lot about the relationship I have with myself, my body and mind.
Also, I see it as a promising platform or stepping stone to gain more visibility in the public & media in order to use that voice to address social issues and taking on global responsibility.
What are some causes that you are most passionate or vocal about?
I am passionate about addressing the still existing lack of diversity within the industry.
Favorite websites, publications, social media handles?
Websites/Magazines : Dazed , i-D , The Gentlewoman, BosybyGirls Magazine, Nowness, Monrowe Magazine
Websites (more political) : Quantara
Instagram inspirations: @reorientmag, @marrakech_brooklyn, @simplymorocco, @nayla_alnaimi