“She who tells a story”: Arab women artists in Boston



Women artists from Iran and the Arab World have something to say.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston’s exhibition “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” (27 August 2013 to 12 January 2014) shows works by twelve women photographers from Iran and the Arab World, challenging stereotypes of how women are perceived and represented across the region. 

Tanya Habjouqa, 'Women of Gaza 3', 2009, chromogenic print. © Tanya Habjouqa. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Tanya Habjouqa, ‘Women of Gaza 3′, 2009, chromogenic print. © Tanya Habjouqa. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World”, the first exhibition of Arab women photographers in North America, takes place at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 27 August 2013 to 12 January 2014 and includes twelve women photographers from Iran and the Arab World. Approximately 100 photographs and two videos, all created within the last decade, challenge the viewers’ preconceptions of women in the Arab world.

Nermine Hammam, 'The Break', 2011, chromogenic print. © Nermine Hammam. Courtesy of the artist and Rose Issa Projects, London. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Nermine Hammam, ‘The Break’, 2011, chromogenic print. © Nermine Hammam. Courtesy of the artist and Rose Issa Projects, London. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

According to the press release, the exhibition “refute(s) the conception that Arab and Iranian women are ‘oppressed and powerless,’ instead reinforcing that some of the most significant photographic work in the region today is being done by women.”

Newsha Tavakolian, 'Don't Forget This Is Not You (for Sahar Lotfi)', 2010, chromogenic print mounted on aluminum. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Newsha Tavakolian, ‘Don’t Forget This Is Not You (for Sahar Lotfi)’, 2010, chromogenic print mounted on aluminum. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The works range from fine art to photojournalism and tackle personal identity, political and social issues while “exploring the complex political and social landscapes of their home regions in images of great sophistication, expressiveness, and beauty,” as stated in the press release.

Gohar Dashti, 'Untitled #5', 2008, chromogenic print. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy Galerie WHITE PROJECT Paris. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Gohar Dashti, ‘Untitled #5′, 2008, chromogenic print. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy Galerie WHITE PROJECT Paris. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Priscilla Frank in the Huffington Post states that these pioneering female artists tackle “Middle Eastern identity with passion, fearlessness and vulnerability“, claiming they “do not just present representations of women in the Arab world, but show how these representations and perceptions construct cultural identities both real and imagined.”

The Economist’s More Intelligent Life magazine calls the exhibition a “brave statement”, describing the images as “full of energy, life and lustre, others gritty and drenched in pain, all with a story to tell.”

Newsha Tavakolian, 'I Am Eve (for Mahsa Vahdat)', 2010, chromogenic print mounted on aluminum. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Newsha Tavakolian, ‘I Am Eve (for Mahsa Vahdat)’, 2010, chromogenic print mounted on aluminum. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Boushra Almutawakel, 'Mother, Daughter, Doll' series, 2010, chromogenic prints. © Boushra Almutawakel. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Boushra Almutawakel, ‘Mother, Daughter, Doll’ series, 2010, chromogenic prints. © Boushra Almutawakel. Courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Artists in the Exhibition

Shirin Neshat, 'Speechless', 1996, gelatin silver print with pen and ink. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jamie McCourt through the 2012 Collectors Committee, M.2012.60 Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Speechless’, 1996, gelatin silver print with pen and ink. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jamie McCourt through the 2012 Collectors Committee, M.2012.60. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

 

Lalla Assia Essaydi, 'Bullet Revisited #3', 2012, triptych, three chromogenic prints on aluminum. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy of Miller Yezerski Gallery Boston; Edwynn Houk Gallery New York. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Lalla Assia Essaydi, ‘Bullet Revisited #3′, 2012, triptych, three chromogenic prints on aluminum. Reproduced with permission. Courtesy of Miller Yezerski Gallery Boston; Edwynn Houk Gallery New York. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Shadi Ghadirian, 'Nil, Nil #4', 2008, chromogenic print. © Shadi Ghadirian. Courtesy of the artist. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Shadi Ghadirian, ‘Nil, Nil #4′, 2008, chromogenic print. © Shadi Ghadirian. Courtesy of the artist. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Shirin Neshat, 'Roja', 2012, photograph, gelatin silver print with India ink. Copyright Shirin Neshat, Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Image courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Shirin Neshat, ‘Roja’, 2012, photograph, gelatin silver print with India ink. Copyright Shirin Neshat, Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Two photographers from the exhibition, Tanya Habjouqa and Newsha Tavakolian, are members of Rawiya, a collective of women photographers from the Middle East. In an interview with Ahram Online the two Rawiya group members describe the importance of banding together to focus on social documentary. Habjouqa said she “felt that [my] new role as a mother would create limitations (not being able to cover the initial days of the Egyptian revolution, for example) a sense of liberation ensued. To shoot slower, more thoughtfully…”

Susan Kendzulak

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Related Topics: Middle Eastern art, museum shows, Arab artists, women power

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Comments

“She who tells a story”: Arab women artists in Boston — 2 Comments

  1. Loved these works. stamped scriptures….continued anonymity…and the dream of life in war infested land…….great work All the best….

  2. Very interesting .I loved specially Gohar Dishti”s work , as to me it say “whatever it may be , but Life goes on . hope goes on .And that is what is scenario allover .

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