Published: March 17, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A landmark exhibition of photographs by 12 contemporary women artists from Iran and the Arab world will be on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) April 8–July 31. “She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” challenges stereotypes surrounding the people, landscapes and cultures of the region, and provides insight into political and social issues. The exhibition presents more than 80 photographs and a video installation. These provocative works, most created within the last decade, range in genre from portraiture to documentary to staged narratives.
“She Who Tells A Story” explores themes of identity, war, occupation and protest. It refutes the conventional idea that Arab and Iranian women are oppressed or powerless, illuminating the fact that women are creating some of the most significant photographic work in the region today. The exhibition features artists Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Shadi Ghadirian, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar, Shirin Neshat and Newsha Tavakolian.
“These groundbreaking artists challenge us to rethink our preconceived notions about Arab and Iranian women and their art,” said NMWA director Susan Fisher Sterling. “They invite us to stand in their shoes and see the extraordinary striking complexities they face. The exhibition highlights their triumphs and struggles, which we hope will stimulate and enhance cultural dialogue on a personal as well as national level.”
The title of the exhibition was inspired by the Arabic word rawiya, which means “she who tells a story.” It is also the name of a small collective of women photographers based in the Middle East, founded in 2009. Each artist in the exhibition offers a vision of the world she has witnessed, and each image invites viewers to confront their own preconceptions.
“Women have been pioneers in the mediums of photography and video since their inception,” said the museum’s chief curator Kathryn Wat. “This exhibition demonstrates that the work of women photographers continues to resonate on a global scale.”
The artists and their work are presented within categories that show photographers deconstructing the stereotypes of Orientalism, constructing subjects’ identities and creating new forms of documentary. Many of the photographers explore questions of identity through an evolving set of narratives, often in response to cultural stereotypes surrounding the Middle East.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, organized the exhibition.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is at 1250 New York Avenue NW. For general information, 202-783-5000 or www.nmwa.org.
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