Urgent Museum Notice

She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World

A couple sitting in a burned-out car in wedding finery, they look directly at the camera with neutral or stricken expressions.
Apr 08 to Jul 31, 2016

This landmark exhibition of more than 80 photographs and a video installation challenges stereotypes surrounding the people, landscapes, and cultures of Iran and the Arab world. She Who Tells a Story 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 exhibition features artists 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. Their provocative works, most created within the last decade, range in genre from portraiture to documentary to staged narratives. Many of the artists develop expansive series of images that create compelling narratives about feminine identity, war, occupation, and protest.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by the Arabic word rawiya, which means “she who tells a story.” It is also the name of a collective of women photographers based in the Middle East founded in 2009. Women worldwide have been pioneers in the mediums of photography and video since their inception. This exhibition demonstrates that the work of women photographers continues to resonate on a global scale.

Each artist in She Who Tells a Story offers a vision of the world she has witnessed. The photographers’ images invite viewers to reconsider their own preconceptions about the nature of politics, family, and personal identity in the Middle East.

Black-and-white photograph of a woman with light skin and dark hair wearing a black t-shirt that blends into the dark black background. She holds her right hand over her heart and stares out at the viewer. Her face and arms are inscribed with calligraphic verses in Farsi.

Shirin Neshat, Sara Khaki (Patriots), from the series “The Book of Kings,” 2012; Ink on laser-exposed silver gelatin print, 60 x 45 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; © Shirin Neshat

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Presentation of the exhibition at NMWA is made possible through the generous support of an anonymous donor. Additional funding is provided by Marcia and Frank Carlucci, Cindy and Evan Jones, and the Georgia Committee of NMWA.

MFA Boston Logo
Museum of Fine Arts Boston Logo

Related Blog Post

She Who Tells a Story artists use artistic and documentary techniques to both depict experiences and address concerns about the medium of photography.
View of the museum from outside showing the Neoclassical building from one corner. The building is a tan-colored stone with an arched doorway, long vertical windows, and detailed molding around the roof.

Related Media

Audio Guide

A couple sitting in a burned-out car in wedding finery, they look directly at the camera with neutral or stricken expressions.
Explore She Who Tells a Story through in-depth discussions from the curators and some of the artists featured in the exhibition. Hear the artists tell their stories in their own voices.

Videos

Enjoy videos related to this landmark exhibition of more than 80 photographs and a video installation challenging stereotypes surrounding the people, landscapes, and cultures of Iran and the Arab world.