Rare interview with urban artist Princess Hijab

We talk to the graffiti artist who works in the Paris underground at night 'hijabising' posters and billboard advertising

Princess Hijab is an elusive graffiti artist who goes around Paris scrawling hijabs and burqas in black marker onto the faces of men and women on posters.

She is out to ‘hijabise’ advertising by targeting cosmetic brands and well-known models, seeming to ask if hiding a face behind a veil is any different from hiding one behind make-up and air brushing.

In a rare interview, the artist explains in her own words (with the help of a translator via email) her motivation:

Street art is how I build my universe, giving form to my imaginary representations. Paris - the city, the identities, fashion and society- it offers me nearly inexhaustible inspiration. It nourishes my urban expression.

When I engulf myself in the entrails of Paris and sneak amongst the travellers I visit my kingdom incognito, thus getting my bearings to say so.

I apprehend advertising in order to transform it. The image of women in publicity is a feature, a fetishist representation of the moment.

My work is nothing to do with the veil ban in France. I’ve repeatedly stated: "No that is not my message, neither in the form, nor in the content of my stuff”. I started working in 2005 [before the ban was imposed] on top of that.

The content of my art is more directly related to our archetypes, to the collective unconsciousness, our intimate reactions, to the closed space of the Metro and the street.

What matters me most is my self-determination and the creation of my own universe, but also being in contact with people that have different sensibilities.

I'm a person who lives quite normally. I'm a Parisian, poor but sublime. During the daytime I lead an honest life. It's at night time that everything derails into a strange ritual that I do not control.

At night the time stops, things seem to float and when I get into the Metro, I get into a kind of parallel world. My alter ego fully comes to life, it vibrates with the decor.

The Metro is a space-time bubble where people move like particles; they go around the passages and the Metro trains and the images I work on refer to another field of conscience, something more dreamlike, darker and more frightening.

I keep my identity a secret because what I do is illegal therefore it’s a protection. Secondly I love the anonymity, thanks to this I can share things that I couldn’t if I were a public figure.

I chose the name ‘Princess Hijab’ because it conjures an exclusive person who operates out of sight. This alias corresponds perfectly. It combines French Revolution with ethnic minorities. The interaction between a certain French Romanticism and the urban allegory has also inspired me.