Enduring Power exhibition sparks round table discussion

Senses Cultural’s newest exhibition, Enduring Power: the Middle Eastern and Iranian Woman’s Story, opened Oct 15th, 2014 in Davis, CA. These 44 images from 7 female photographers, curated by photographer Sina Araghi, were met with a great response of attendees. The reception also included a round-table dialogue led by keynote speaker Samina Ali. The opening reception, hosted by Senses Cultural founder Tata Monfared, was held at the University of California at Davis, at the UC Davis Alumni Center.

There were many notable academics and guests present at Wednesday’s opening, bringing great observations and insight to the round table discussion. Keynote speaker Samina Ali posed the simple but thought-provoking question, “what first comes to mind when you think of a Middle Eastern, Muslim or Iranian woman?” As an activist and artist herself, she easily spoke on the matters and themes that were present in the photographs of Enduring Power, and lead the discussion that followed her speech.


Ms. Delaine Eastin, former Superintendent of Education for California, noted that “when women are permitted to fully participate in the decision making for their society, there is a fundamental shift in values.” She notes that the emphasis shifts to focus on preschool through higher education, caring for the elderly, and the family unit. This all begins, she states, “simply with education.” Her reflections were personal and honest, revealing “I was the first person in my family to complete higher education, and it changed my life entirely.”

Natasha Owen, of the Honoree council of the Russian Federation of Sacramento, provided wonderfully insightful and intelligent contributions to the discussion as well. She observed that “we go through our days like ostriches – to the grocery store, to the pool, out to dinner. We often forget of the cost we pay worldwide to be a woman.”

The discussion also heard comments from about a dozen other attendees with their reactions to the photography and Ms. Ali’s question, including board member and professor Randi Hagerman, and photographer Paul Maska.


This roundtable discussion was fueled by the powerful works of Razan Alzayani, Laura Boushnak, Boushra Almutawakel, Hagar Sobeea, Hamideh Zolfaghari, Maryam Saeedpoor, and Sara Sasani. These talented women hail from Iran, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Kuwait, and presented powerful stories of education, individuality, familial relationships, societal restraints, and bold bravery. Their photographs have appeared in many publications and received dozens of awards, and collectively were a stunning look into the struggles and victories of women in the Middle East and Iran.


Enduring Power: The Middle Eastern and Iranian Woman’s Story will be on display at UC Davis’ Alumni Center until November 30th.


For coverage of this story in Farsi, please visit our Farsi language website by clicking here 

written by Silvana Gargione

Get to know: Photographer Razan Alzayani

Razan Alzayani was sent 3 questions to answer prior to the exhibition, Enduring Power: The Middle Eastern and Iranian Woman’s Story, which opens on Oct 15th at the Buehler Alumni Center at UC Davis .  Her answers are as eloquent, thoughtful and detailed as her visual work.  With a degree from Boston University, an impressive resume and several awards over the last two years, she is a very strong contributor to this exhibition.

Razan has been working in the Gulf region as a visual storyteller for over five years, continually enjoying the interplay of working with still and video mediums. She currently works as a video journalist for a major news-wire based in Dubai. Prior to that, Razan worked as a multimedia producer and later as a staff photojournalist for The National Newspaper based in Abu Dhabi. She has a passion for issues that involve women and communities that are often misrepresented or that are hard to access.

razan A

Q: What aspect of photos are you most connected to?

Razan: I am most connected to the photographs that show the quiet moments in between, those that relay the brief instances where the subjects are completely relaxed and have either forgotten or chosen to disregard my presence. The memories of those moments and the interaction with the subjects that let me into their lives still strongly resonate with me. I often find myself feeling very attached to those images.

Q:“Enduring Power” is an exhibition bringing the Iranian and Middle Eastern woman’s story to life.  What part of that story do you think is the most important to tell?  What part is the most unexpected?  What part do you relate to the most as a woman?

Razan: Sometimes the most important stories to tell are those that are not in the mainstream media. People often think that as a rule women in the Middle East are oppressed, mistreated and under-represented. To some degree that can be true depending on which specific country is referred to. But it is inaccurate to make statements about an entire gender across a huge region that embodies so many variances in ethnic diversity, law, religion, cultural traditions and values.

In fact, there are more similarities than differences between women in the west and their Middle Eastern counterparts. The path to achieving certain goals can be vastly different, but their dreams, aspirations and achievements are often comparable for the most part. They face difficulties that women in the west have already managed to overcome; and as an Arab woman from the Gulf working alone in what is perceived as a “western” profession, I get heavily-loaded assumptions and questions from people, therefore I can relate to many of these women that are working hard to break out of traditional moulds.

Q: Senses Cultural’s mission statement is: creating a more peaceful and healthy environment for all by fostering understanding through sharing arts and ideas across the globe.  What are a few things you hope to achieve from being part of this exhibition?

Razan: I’m hoping that the images will give people attending the exhibition an opportunity to gain a deeper insight into everyday life in the Middle East. This exhibition is an opportunity to break the paradigms that are constantly perpetuated for the sake of viewer ratings and clicks. Despite the fact that women are seen as living polar opposite lives compared to the western standard of “normal”, they find their own happiness and fulfillment within the realms of their own culture and society just like women anywhere else in the world.


For more information and a glimpse of her work, please visit http://razanalzayani.com


Silvana Gargione

Get to know: Photographer Hamideh Zolfaghari

Senses Cultural’s upcoming exhibition, Enduring Power: Middle Eastern and Iranian Women’s Story, will open on Oct 15th at the UC Davis Alumni Center.  Photographer Hamideh Zolfaghari is a talented and vital contributor to this exhibition.  A preview of her work can be seen as the featured image for the Enduring Power digital poster, seen here and through social media.

As Hamideh beautifully states, “I wish my pictures to be a testament to the heroism, frustrations, joys, and sorrows of the forgotten”.

Enduring Power Poster

Her contributions to Enduring Power do exactly that. Born and raised in Tehran, Hamideh traveled to California to earn a degree in Creative Photography from San Jose State University.  After graduating she spent several years working in San Francisco, but returned to Iran to continue her career.  In 1989, she participated in the Exhibition in the Museum of Modern Arts in Tehran, an annual event, and won first prize for photography.  This was the first of many showings for Hamideh, including solo and group showings in galleries across France, England, Switzerland and California.   In 1999, she began to work as a photographer for UNICEF.  She has won numerous awards for her work and enjoyed great success over the last 25 years.

As a female photographer in Iran, she “has fought to tell the stories of many that could not express it themselves”.  Her work highlights the extreme contrasts between men and women in the Iranian culture, and draws a link between “the nomadic tribes in Iran and the modern life in Tehran”.  For Hamideh, photography allows her to express the influence the world has on her and the influence she wants to have on the world.  She believes photography as a medium is a tangible reminder that we must understand each other – that we need each other as human beings.

Her travels through Iran’s modern and her understanding of nomadic cultures bring a great depth to her work, and illustrates the beauty of all aspects of life.  As a woman, she readily acknowledges that participating in Enduring Power: Middle Eastern and Iranian Women’s Story allows her to highlight the secret and hidden stories of women, which are often forgotten.


Visit http://www.hamidehz.com for more information on Hamideh Zolfarghari.


Silvana Gargione


panel discussion on the Impact of War on Women and Children in the Middle East

2-5 pm
Senses Cultural is presenting a panel discussion on the Impact of War on Women and Children in the Middle East to be held on  the  afternoon of June 28th
at San Francisco State University. 

Details of the event are below.

While more men are directly killed, injured and harmed in the situations of war, women are more adversely affected than men over the entire conflict. Women and  girls  are killed, sexually attached, and humiliated because of gender. They have to care for family during wartime, they may face displacement and separation from love ones. Children may also become victims of  killed  maimed, recruited to act as solders themselves or forced into prostitution.  This important issue of women and children in conflict is often not completely addressed as evidenced by the recent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Senses Cultural, through its up-coming panel discussion, “The Impact of War on Women and Children,” provides the opportunity for the scholars and researcher to fill the existing information gaps on the problem and suffering of women and children in the war recently experienced by Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and others.
Our expert panelists include doctors, journalists, philanthropists, all activist in this very important and relevant cause. More information about our  panelists  is coming soon.

The proposed panel discussion intends to provide the opportunity for the scholars and researcher to present papers with the aim to fill the existing information gaps on the problem and suffering of women and children in the war recently experienced by Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan and most recent disasters situation in Syria. The display of the depth and extend of the impact of war on women and children in the concerned countries may discourage the parties involved choose means other than war to resolve their conflict. The other important factor to choose this time for the panel is the on-going war in Syria and the possibility of breaking of new wars in the region.

SUPPORT: We need your help. 
Your contributions will enable us to help to bring more understanding about our world. Senses Cultural is a nonprofit dedicating to create a more peaceful and healthier environment for all. Your contributions will help us to bring voice to voiceless and to empower women in Middle East and around the world.

Tata Monfared

Founder & Executive Director
Senses Cultural

Exciting Opportunity for Women To Get Their Voices Heard!

Senses is happy to announce that our media partner, International Museum of Women, which is now part of Global Fund for Women, is currently accepting submissions for their first joint exhibition, Imagining Equality: Your Voices on Human Rights.

Submissions of photography, video, audio, journalism, creative writing and more are accepted online through: 4/30/2014.

Be part of this extraordinary and important conversation. Submit your work online today!

What is Imagining Equality?

IMOW is creating a new online exhibition exploring your perspectives on women’s human rights and your hopes for the future. What have been the greatest victories and challenges for women in your community? What rights are you fighting for? Do you feel equal? What kind of world do you dream of?

As the UN prepares to create a new set of international development goals, IMOW wants your voices and ideas to spark a global conversation about a new decade for women’s human rights. What issues should be at the forefront as we imagine a new future for the world’s women?

Submissions Wanted:

Artists, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, writers are all encouraged to submit work. Contributions must be in English, and can come in any medium (see IMOW website for details). In addition, work must address a topic related to women’s human rights.

Your work and ideas could explore any aspect of equality and women’s human rights:

  • Power
  • Poverty
  • Violence
  • Education
  • Work
  • Health

Explore these topics, or come up with your own.

Whatever the topic you choose, as part of your submission IMOW asks that you complete the following sentence:

Equality is ….

Why should you submit work?

Imagining Equality will showcase the diverse experiences and creative ideas of women from around the world.  Submitting your work provides the opportunity to share your creativity with the museum’s global audience of over 50,000 monthly visitors.


Go to the museum’s submissions page and upload your work. More instructions are available at the link. If you have questions or trouble submitting, please e-mail: team@imow.org


  • SUBMIT EARLY: Don’t wait until the last minute! Earlier submissions will have a greater chance of being selected.
  • DO YOUR BEST: Make your contribution look as good as possible. Edit and review to make sure it’s complete. If submitting text, include an image for visual interest. If submitting visuals, include a detailed description of each image, video, or piece of art.
  • TELL THE WHOLE STORY: Provide context and background for your work. For example, if submitting artwork, share information about your methods and/or sources of inspiration. For photographs, tell IMOW where, when, and why you took them.
  • BE EASY TO REACH: Make it easy for IMOW to contact you. Be sure to include an email address you check regularly in your submission.
  • GET PERSONAL: Tell IMOW about yourself by including a personal picture and short bio with your submission.
  • WHAT TO SUBMIT: Get inspired! Visit MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe and Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices for examples of work featured in IMOW’s recent online exhibitions.

For more information and details on the exhibition and submission process, please visit this page: http://imaginingequality.imow.org/

Senses is deeply thrilled about this new online, digitial exhibition, which will feature a diversity of women’s voices, opinions and artwork. We believe that women’s voices can be the force behind change for a more equitable and peaceful world.

Join the movement to bring about change and add your voice to this incredible new exhibition!



Celebrating International Woman’s Day!

To mark 2014 International Women’s Day, we celebrate the bold move by our outreach partner, the International Museum of Women. This week, IMOW announced that it has merged with the Global Fund for Women in order to increase awareness and action on vital issues for women globally.

The merger brings together Global Fund’s expertise on issues, grantmaking and fundraising with IMOW’s skills in awareness raising, online advocacy and digital storytelling. Under the terms of the merger, IMOW becomes a part of Global Fund for Women; Global Fund headquarters will remain in San Francisco, CA. with an office in New York City.

“I am thrilled by the exponential potential that this merger will create,” said Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women in a press release announcing the merger. “By combining our on-the-ground expertise and networks with IMOW’s creativity and digital advocacy we see a unique opportunity to engage and mobilize the next-generation and to make a deeper impact than ever before.”

“We see this as an unprecedented opportunity.” said Clare Winterton, Executive Director of the International Museum of Women, now VP of Advocacy and Innovation at the Global Fund for Women. “Combining IMOW’s unique skills and content with the Global Fund’s deep expertise and reach will bring together resources and advocacy for the world’s women. Together, we’ll have far greater ability to illuminate critical issues, tell important stories, reach new audiences and spur wider action for gender equality.”

Both organizations are united by their vision of an equitable and sustainable world in which women and girls have resources, voice, choice and opportunities to realize their human rights. IMOW’s fusion of culture, media and online advocacy programming complements Global Fund’s on-the-ground relationships and grant-making activities with grantees and human rights organizations around the world.

IMOW engages over 700,000 annual visitors, including visitors to global events and exhibits. In the past three years IMOW has held physical events and installations in 14 countries on five continents.

Global Fund’s international network includes 20,000+ donors, a global online community of more than 650,000, and more than 2,000 volunteers and 4,700 grantees on the ground in 175 countries. Together, the two organizations will engage more than one million visitors per year through social media, email and Web, in effect doubling their impact as separate entities.

Senses congratulates both IMOW and Global Fund for this merger and look forward to our continued outreach partnership.

In Celebration of International Women’s Day, Senses Cultural Attends Global Women Leaders Conference

Senses Cultural is excited to announce that our CEO and Founder, Tata Monfared, will be attending the Global Women Leaders Conference on March 8 and 9th in Dubai. The WOIBEX conference is the largest gathering for women’s empowerment in the 21st century and attracts the highest level of women leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesswomen, executives, and government leaders.

The aim of the conference is to close gender gaps and bring women in emerging markets into the global economic mainstream in order to unleash the potential of women and increase stability and prosperity worldwide.

Held annually in celebration of International Women’s Day, the WOIBEX conference pays tribute to women who translate leadership into action in order to forge long-term cooperation in building a globally competitive environment.

This theme of women’s empowerment is very much in keeping with the mission of Senses. This is Tata’s second time attending the conference. In a recent interview, Tata stressed the importance of engaging women by saying, “As we know, a wide array of obstacles undermine the lives of Middle Eastern women, and through formidable challenges, Middle Eastern women have been remarkably resilient in expressing their adequate power in creating change. This is a time when women in the Middle East can bring their partnership in regenerating and rebuilding the infrastructure of peace and unity for their nation and beyond.”

While attending the conference, Tata will be speaking to women leaders from around the world about our upcoming projects, such as the forthcoming art exhibitions, speaker series, and a new concept of an international non-profit club, which is a collaboration of NGOs working towards a common end.

The conference also gives Tata the opportunity to speak to women art patrons from the Middle East and globally who will be attending the conference.

Finally, Tata’s involvement with the conference will bring greater visibility to Senses internationally. As we move into 2014, Senses is committed to becoming an international organization. With Tata’s own background and her family’s connections with the world of art, culture, and business in Iran and the Middle East, it seems natural for Senses to share the beauty, art and culture of this part of the world with the West. During a time when many Westerners have negative images of the Middle East, spreading Senses’ mission of creating a more peaceful and healthy environment through sharing ideas and arts globally is especially vital.

Tata and Senses staff work hard to make sure the projects and organizations that we are supporting are aligned with our mission to create a more healthy and peaceful environment for all.