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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Middle East photo show ends at Women's Museum

This is a brother and sister, photographed by Gohar Dashti (b. 1980, Ahvaz, Iran), Untitled #4 from the series, "Today's Life and War," 2008, courtesy of the artist

If you missed the stark exhibition which ended today at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, She Who Tells A Story by 12 women photographers from Iran and the Arab world, you may still buy the 176-paged catalogue for $40.
The entrance to the show/Photo by Patricia Leslie

For the show's opening, museum director Susan Fisher Sterling wrote: "These groundbreaking artists challenge us to rethink our preconceived notions about Arab and Iranian women and their art." It "challenges stereotypes" about the Middle East region "and "provides insight into political and social issues."
This one and the three photographs below are part of different series by Boushra Almutawakel (b. 1969, Sana'a, Yemen), "Mother, Daughter, Doll," 2010, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  The series progresses into darkness, and the subjects gradually change expression and apparel until they are... no more.
Part of different series by Boushra Almutawakel (b. 1969, Sana'a, Yemen), "Mother, Daughter, Doll," 2010, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Above are the ending photographs in the series pictured below on the wall.  The first photograph begin with a smiling mother and daughter (and doll) who are progressively covered up until there is only darkness left (above; photograph on right).
Part of different series by Boushra Almutawakel (b. 1969, Sana'a, Yemen), "Mother, Daughter, Doll," 2010, 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Part of different series by Boushra Almutawakel (b. 1969, Sana'a, Yemen), "Mother, Daughter, Doll," 2010, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


The artists' creativeness came unbound in the presentation, clashing with restrictive and cloaked apparel so often associated with women from the area and frequently seen on Washington's streets. Indeed, some artists focused their cameras on the hijab and the burqa. (The Middle East is not the only conservative region when it comes to vestments: In a report issued this year by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of European countries regulate women's religious dress in one way or another.) 
Shadi Ghadirian (b. 1974, Tehran, Iran), Untitled, from the series "Qajar," 1998, courtesy of the artist
 Shadi Ghadirian (b. 1974, Tehran, Iran), Untitled, from the series "Qajar," 1998, courtesy of the artist
Not everything is dark and humorless.  Try an outing in a boat. Tanya Habjouqa (b. 1975, Amman, Jordan) Untitled from the series "Women of Gaza," 2009, courtesy of the artist and East Wing Contemporary Gallery
Ruth Halawani (b. 1964, Jerusalem) Untitled XIX, from the series "Negative Incursions," 2002, courtesy of the artist and Selma Feriani Gallery, London
 Ruth Halawani (b. 1964, Jerusalem) Untitled VI, from the series "Negative Incursions," 2002, courtesy of the artist and Selma Feriani Gallery, London

The exhibition included more than 80 photographs and a video installation which filled galleries with contemporary color, and black and white images of life (sometimes staged) in the Middle East.

NMWA Curator Kathryn Wat noted on a tour that the show contained different subjects (including gender roles, military objects, and ways women are oppressed), displayed with "an element of grit, a lot of humor, and irony." Nine of the dozen artists still live in the Middle East. 

The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where it opened and next traveled to Stanford University and then, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh before arriving in Washington.
 
Buy the catalogue here or at
the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005 which has other exhibitions to see.

Admission: Free on the first Sunday of the month (August 7) or $10, adults; $8, seniors and students; and always free for members and children, 18 and under.

For more information: 202-783-5000

Metro station: Metro Center. Exit at 13th Street and walk two blocks north.

patricialesli@gmail.com

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