Robin Shumays

Robin Shumays is a multidisciplinary artist and designer based in Queens, N.Y. Her fashion line, hennaflower, has been featured in various shows in New York City, including Harlem Fashion Week, Africa Fashion Week, and Fashion Envie. She has also worked professionally as a web developer, graphic designer, social media consultant, UX designer, and model. In June of 2021, she presented a paper entitled “Punk, Paisleys and Polkadots” on Prince’s influence on fashion through the 1980s at the “78-88: PRINCE, THE FIRST DECADE: Interdisciplinary Conference.” She is also co-director and dance performer with Zikrayat, an Arabic Music and Dance Ensemble that has performed at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Museum, William and Mary College, and throughout the Northeast. Once upon a time, Robin held a short-lived dream job as an administrative assistant at Paisley Park Music (Paisley’s short-lived music publishing wing). Currently, she produces and co-hosts a webinar podcast on Prince called The Purple Paradigm.

Robin Shumays

Bedlah Bedlam: 
An Exploration of Orientalist Fantasy and Fashion via the Lens of Prince Rogers Nelson

Prince’s 1992 O(+> album was in no doubt heavily influenced by Mayte Garcia, the music of Egypt, and Bellydance (known as Raqs Sharqi in Arabic). Prince was no stranger to fusing instruments and sounds of the Middle East and India into his music. This time, however, he created a mystical orientalist fairytale centered around Egypt and the budding romance between himself and Mayte. This presentation will delve deeper into the enchantment with Bellydance and Egypt that Prince experienced, and the roots of Orientalism bound to it.

I will also explore the influence of the Islamic World on Black American music as it pertains to Orientalism; is it cultural appropriation? Can an oppressed people appropriate from other oppressed/colonized people?

Last, but certainly not least, we will take a closer look at the influence of Mayte’s Bellydance attire (known as Bedlah in Arabic) on the fashions created for Prince and the NPG during the O(+> album and the Act I and Act II tours.