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.
written by Silvana Gargione