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Through the Eyes of Women

By Rakia Achab

She Who Tells a Story is an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston running until January 12. The exhibit features twelve women from Iran, Morocco, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern countries who tell their stories through photography. There are over ninety photographs and two videos. In one, women are singing a song called “Listen.” Kristen Gersh, the curator for She Who Tells a Story, said, “I learned a lot about these amazing photographers while living overseas for fifteen years.”

Lalla Essaydi, a Moroccan-born photographer, is known for her bright Moroccan-tile artwork that features young women posed alongside the art. In her photo titled Bullets Revisited, a young woman with long black hair and caramel-colored skin lies on a bullet-covered bed. The young woman is covered in Henna, an Islamic art form used for weddings, parties, and other special occasions.

Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel’s photo series is titled Mother, Daughter, Doll. The series features eight different photos of Almutawakel sitting with her daughter on her lap with a doll placed on her daughter’s lap. In the first photo they appear happy, smiling for the camera; as the photos continue, they stop smiling. They are increasingly covered in traditional Islamic garb such as a hijab, which is a scarf that covers your head, a black cloak called an abaya, and finally a face veil called a niqab. In the last photo, they finally disappear, suggestive of society’s oppression of women who do not have the right to vote, to drive, or even to attend school.

Shadi Ghadirian was born in Tehran, Iran in 1974 and still lives and works there. Her photo titled 1998 shows an emotionless woman posing in a black-and-white photo and holding a newspaper. In some of her other photos, women are holding items like a boom box or sunglasses that have been banned by the Iranian government. Her photos raise serious questions about restrictions in personal and public life in Iran.

Other featured photographers are Rania Matar, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Newsha Tavakolian, Tanya Habjouqa, Sherin Neshat, Rula Halawani, Jannanne Al-Ani, and Nermine Hammam. Their photography gives insight into political and social issues, as well as issues involving beauty and culture. Each photograph tells a traditional story by showing how women are portrayed in the Middle East.


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