Exhibitions

Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World

Untitled, from the series “Women of Gaza,” 2009, purchase with general funds and the Horace W. Goldsmith Fund for Photography © Tanya Habjouqa/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A landmark exhibition of photographs by 12 contemporary women artists from Iran and the Arab world is about to go on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C.

She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World, comprising of more than 80 photographs and a video installation, challenges stereotypes surrounding the people, landscapes and cultures of the Middle East by focusing on the issues incumbent in the work of women living in the region.

Mostly created within the last decade, the exhibition ranges from portraiture to documentary to staged narratives, and includes female photographers like 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.

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, which was founded in 2009. Each artist in the exhibition offers a vision of the world she has witnessed.

The exhibition “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 gallery said in a statement.

“Many of the photographers explore questions of identity through an evolving set of narratives, often in response to cultural stereotypes surrounding the Middle East.”

“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.”

“Women have been pioneers in the mediums of photography and video since their inception,” said NMWA Chief Curator Kathryn Wat. “This exhibition demonstrates that the work of women photographers continues to resonate on a global scale.”

She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World is on show from April 8–July 31, 2016. For more information visit here.