The second floor of the National Museum of Women in Art is currently the home to an exhibit titled “She Who Tells A Story” that is on display until July 31. The exhibition houses more than 80 photos and a video presentation that showcase the works of Tanya Habjouqa, Lalla Essaydi, Shadi Ghadirian, Boushra Almutawakel, Rula Halawani, Rania Matar, Newsha Tavakolian, Nermine Hammam, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Jananne Al-Ani, and Shirin Neshat.
The title of the gallery is inspired by the word Rawiya, which translates to “she who tells a story”.
Each photographer tells a story through the pictures that are on display in the gallery. The images featured include some that are staged and some that capture the terrors of living in the Arab world in the unrest.
Tanya Habjouqa has several photos from the photo series “Women of Gaza” featured in the exhibit. According to Habjouqa, the series aims to show the spirit of the community and how life continues on despite the devastation that surrounds them. One photo features a woman wearing a red hijab taking a photo with her cell phone. Another shows a young woman swinging while at a “vacation” spot outside of Gaza city.
Photographer, Gohar Dashti’s series titled “Today’s Life and War” is on display in the exhibit. The pictures are staged and feature a couple going through daily tasks. According to Dashti’s website, the series came to life from her experiences during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. She says that goal of the series is to show how the war has infiltrated every aspect of life, by using the man and woman to embody determination, hope, survival, and perseverance. The images show the couple doing normal activities such as watching T.V., celebrating a wedding, doing laundry, and eating breakfast, all while in a fictionalized battlefield.
Another series of photos that are on display in the exhibit are titled “Nil Nil” by photographer Shadi Ghadirian, her photos represent the juxtaposition between the male and female stereotypes that are present, especially in the Arab World. Many of the pictures show the male and female side of the war. One of the photos shows bed, but in the center of the frame is a rifle grenade puncturing the sheets. According to Ghardirian, it is to show how war is both inside and outside the home.
One of the biggest photos in the exhibit is titled “bullets Revisited” and it was photographed by Lalla Assia Essaydi. The image looks as if it was taken in the nineteenth century, and has an Orientalist feel to it. However, all of the decorative “jewels” that surround the young woman, are actually silver and gold bullet casings. According to the museum exhibit, “The use of the casings evokes symbolic violence and is a reference to Essaydi’s fear about growing restrictions on women in a new post-revolutionary era, following the events of the Arab Spring.”
One of the series of photos is called “A Girl In Her Room” which has teenage girls posing comfortably in their rooms. The series shows how the young girls show their personality in the midst of the turmoil that is occurring outside of their safe space.
As you exit the exhibit, there’s a small black spiral notebook filled with signatures and words from those who visited the exhibit. One from May 4th reads “Wonderful, powerful exhibit.”
“She Who Tells A Story” will close on July 31. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is open Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Written by: Katie Byrnes