Curator Statement from Sina Araghi

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

 

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Mother,Daughter, Doll series by Boushra Almutawakel

 

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Iranian photographers Hamideh Zolfaghari and Maryam Saeedpoor

 

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Photography of Razan Alzayani (Bahrain) and Sara Sasani (Iran)
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I Read, I Write series by Laura Boushnak
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Photography from Boushra Almutawakel and Hagar Sobeea

by Silvana Gargione

 

Thank You, from Founder Tata Monfared

We just celebrated the opening of “Enduring Power, “ the exhibition of Middle Eastern women photographers last night, Wednesday October 15, at UC Davis Alumni Center with great participation from family, fans and friends.

For this exhibition and for the very first time, we collaborated with women artists and their media organizations in the Middle East in bringing together the collection of work with their stories. The pictures represent stories about lives of women captured in moments through the clear lenses of these photographers’ cameras. These photographers illustrate the lives and surroundings of women in their communities.

As the executive director of Senses Cultural, it is my honor to present this truly collaborative project by illuminating the creativity of women artists in Middle East and sharing their stories with style and intelligence.

I am thankful for the keen participations of a number of high executives and professional women and men in support of this monumental educational art project. I was thrilled to hear their positive views and feedback around the friendly conversations at the conference room after hearing a talk presented powerfully by our keynote speaker , Samina Ali.

We enjoyed listening to insights form Ms. Delaine Eastin, former California Superintendent of Public Instruction, and a powerful force behind women raising their professional status through education. We also heard supportive feedback from other individuals and UC Davis professors. Professors included our honoree board member Professor Randi Hagerman and the heartfelt observations of Ms. Natalia Owen from the Honoree Council of The Russian Federation in Sacramento. Their interviews and observations will be posted on our blog soon.

Thanks to the entire team of senses contributors for their commitment and hard work in making this Exhibition possible.

I am humbled by the help and dedication of Sina Araghi, the exhibit curator, and for all the hard work and coordination he has offered working with the Senses Cultural team.

It is our great pleasure to have the talented journalist and column writer, Mr. Abolhasan Mokhtabad, with our team as his capable coordination and communications have helped Senses cultural expand their possibilities in a great scale.

My special thanks to Hamideh Zoulfaghari, our world Gold Winner Iranian woman photographer, for sharing her works and assisting Senses Cultural in organizing the collection from Iran.

I need to bring thanks to the whole team of senses artists, designers and writers for their dedications and works with us.

My deepest appreciation goes to the wonderful University of Davis, and the Cal Aggie Alumni Center directors, who assisted us in a keen and organized manner.

Thanks to all of you for your participation yesterday and in the upcoming days, and for bringing support to our mission of building bridges between cultures and to bring more understandings to our world.

With your support we will be able to take this exhibition to different universities in California, and beyond.

Thank you,

Tata Monfared, Senses Cultural Founder