Raised in Tunisia, Ayari didn’t start working with her Middle Eastern subject matter until she’d moved to America and notions of cultural heritage and identity came to the fore. She describes her practice as an awakening of self-consciousness. SidiBou takes its name from Sidi Bou Said, a popular tourist destination in northern Tunisia renowned for its blue and white buildings and cobbled streets. In Ayari’s work, the eye doubles as an ’I’, a personified all-seeing entity, anonymous witness, portrayal of cognitive perception. In SidiBou, the eyeball is closed, a pink fleshy mass bearing the punk Mohawk stripes of eyebrows or lashes. The street signs in the background read: "Avenue Iraq" and "Palestine Street".
For Ayari, who grew up in the religiously tolerant culture of Tunisia, the burka is less a politicised issue than a source of fascination; she acknowledges its suppressive role within patriarchal societies, but also views it as an enviable means of ‘disappearing’, its anonymity providing a sense of comfort and empowerment. In WshhWshh, two women are shrouded in a flat black mass, thinly painted to be flush with the picture plane. Their faces transformed into giant eyes, they are not seen, but observe everything. Ayari illustrates them sharing a secret, heightening the mysteries surrounding the veil.