Kohl is the powder of the ithmid, or galena stone, mixed with water. For thousands of years and across the Asian and African continents, both men and women painted their eyelids with this amalgam. It was believed that Kohl protected the eyes and improved the eyesight of its wearer.
Now commercialized as “Arabic eyeliner,” kohl has been incorporated in the Orientalist fantasies of how “Arab” women should look. The representations of “Arab” women are either hypersexualized in a poor imitation of the belly-dancing costume, or victimized behind a veil or burqa, or dressed in an awkward combination of both. Inevitably, all are compulsively associated with the penetrating dark eyes, accentuated with abundant kohl.
We chose the name Kohl to assert that it is not an exotic accessory. We reclaim its history and the many histories that have been blurred and lost to colonial hegemonies. Kohl is a new vision on feminism, gender, and the body.