Enduring Power: The Middle Eastern and Iranian Woman’s Story is a collection of work by seven female photographers from Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, examining the lives and livelihoods of women in that region.
Apart from their exceptional photographic work, these photographers were selected in great part due to their diverse coverage of topics regarding women, spanning across many different countries throughout the Middle East.
Peering behind the veil and headscarves to reveal real individuals is a delicate but necessary boundary to push. It is so vital to the future and progress of women in these cultures to be seen succeeding, thriving, and discovering – all on their own. Whether they are generations apart or contemporaries, progress is achieved when women grow and improve on their own terms, separate from the male influence that so strongly permeates their public culture and the worldwide media. There is an almost constant push/pull between the individualized and powerful identity of the Middle Eastern woman, and the attempts by culture and government to erase that identity.
This collection of images illustrate how that sense of identity has not been erased. This collection is a celebration of the progress and growth that has happened, and a tangible foreshadowing of what is still to come.
The division of gender throughout daily life creates two very different worlds within the same culture. The photographic perspective in this exhibition is unique to women who are inside these cultures and countries. These 7 photographers are not outsiders, tourists, or just passing through, and the familiarity and camaraderie felt between ‘insiders’ is tangible in these photographs. Being a female photographer creates uniquely privileged access into the lives and experiences of the Middle Eastern woman – access into a world that men seldom are privy to. Respecting this access while still honoring the truth in moments witnessed requires grace and trust. There is fragility in that access. As an Iranian male photographer, I admire this perspective, knowing full well the limitations and privileges of my own gender.
Collectively, these photographs speak of the greater issues of identity and resilience, and the strength of women within these regions. They are empowering themselves – against all obstacles – through their own will. A clear defiance and sense of individuality is present (an especially sacred quality in a world of appearance commonality), and there is no apologizing for any of it. These women are not weak or afraid. They are resilient, powerful, and energized. They command your attention and your interest.
Let their stories be heard.
-Sina Araghi, curator
by Silvana Gargione