Exhibitions USA

Boston show aims to portray power of Arab women photographers

A number of works are directly inspired by recent events, including the Arab Spring and the Iranian Green Movement

Rania Matar's Stephanie, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010

“I’ve been following contemporary photography in [Arab countries and Iran] for decades, and the strongest work in the region is produced by women artists,” says Kristen Gresh, the curator of “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (27 August-12 January 2014). Bringing together work by 12 female photographers, who have mostly never been shown in the US before, the exhibition aims to “refute the conception that Arab and Iranian women are ‘oppressed and powerless’”. Gresh was warned that combining gender and geography could lead to “ghetto-ising” and enforce stereotypes of the Middle East, but in fact she hopes to achieve the opposite: to break down misconceptions and challenge the Western notion of the “Orient”.

A number of pieces have been directly inspired by recent events, including the Arab Spring and the Iranian Green Movement of 2009. The New York-based Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, for example, is represented by her recent series “Book of Kings”, 2012, which deals with the thousands who participated in protests during the uprisings in the past few years. But, Gresh says, “a lot of the work that has to do with [what is happening] now won’t come out for a while. There’s just a lot to absorb right now.”

Shadi Ghadirian's Nil, Nil #4, 2008
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