by Patrizia Pulga


Recently a lot of women artists coming from Africa and the Middle East are achieving greater success day by day.  Some of them are from Iran, such as the well known actress Golshifteh Farahani, who played the film “About Elly”, winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin Film Festival, and Shirin Neshat who won the Silver Lion at the 66th Venice Film Festival for her directional debut "Women without Men". 

Shirin is primarly known for her work in films, videos and photographies and she is considered the first Iranian artist to achieve an international success.  Born in Qawzin (Iran) in 1957, she moved to U.S.A. to study art when she was still very young, at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in her country. As a photographer and video-artist, Shirin Neshat is recognized for her brilliant portraits of women covered with Persian calligraphy displaying verses of love and loss written by women Persian poets (notably through the “Women of Allah series” in 1990). She also directed several videos, such as “Anchorage” (1996), “Shadow under the Web” (1997), “Turbulent” (1998) and “Soliloquy” (1999).

Neshat's work refers the social, political and psychological dimensions of women's experience in contemporary Islamic societies, to the codes of Muslim culture and the complexity of certain oppositions, such as man and woman. Although she actively opposes stereotypical representations of Islam, her artistic objectives are not explicitly polemical. Instead, her work recognizes the complex intellectual and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women throughout the world.

“VEILED MEMORIES” is the title of the exhibit of the XIV Edition of WOMEN'S BIENNAL EXHIBITION in Ferrara, Italy, in Palazzo Massari, Museum of Contemporary Art. This year the exhibit ( open April 18 - June 13 2010) has been dedicated to Iranian women artists: Shirin Fakhim, Ghazel, Firouzeh Khosrovani, Shadi Ghadirian, Mandana Moghaddam and Parastou Forouhar.

The exhibit, curated by Silvia Girelli, has been organized by U.D.I.  (Unione Donne Italiane , Union of Italian Women) with the collaboration of the Museums of the town. Several artists show films, video or installations, whereas Mandana Moghaddam, Parastou Forouhar and Shadi Ghadirian use photographs as medium to document women’s condition in one of the most conservative countries of the Middle East.

Mandana Moghaddam was born in Theran in 1962 but actually she lives in exile in Goteborg, Sweden. Photographer and artist, she has got a lot of scholarships in Sweden and her works have been exhibited in many European museums and galleries. The series of the pictures exhibited named “Manije” finds inspiration in her pregnancy and refers about the intimacy and the solitude of a woman in her bedroom, broken by a sensation of danger: water is slowly submering the sleeping woman.In 2005 Mandana, together with Bita Fayyazi Azad, showed her works in the Iranian Pavillon in 51th “Biennale di Venezia”, curated by the director of Teheran Museum of Contemporary Art.

Parastou Forouhar was born in Teheran in 1962, studied art at the University of her native town with a degree in Art, then, since 1991 she has continued her studies in Germany. Actually she lives in Frankfurt. She has been awarded many scholarships in Germany and in Italy.

For “Veiled memories”  Farouhar has chosen to exhibit some big pictures of the black veil used by Iranian women. There is a beautiful tryptich which shows a woman’s hand as the only visiblepart of her body emerging from the black dress.

Since the end of the Nineties she has been urgently furthering democracy in Iran: her parents were murdered in Iran in November 1998. In her quest for clarification she went to Iran many times, questioned functionaries in the ministries responsible, held press conferences and has written letters to human rights organisations and politicians. There has been no clarification yet.

Shadi Ghadirian
was born in 1974 in Tehran, where she still lives and works. Shadi began her professional photography career after studing photography at Azad University. Through her work Shadi has always been inspired to create work reflecting what she sees as the duality and contradiction of life, questioning the role of women in society and exploring ideas of censorship, religion, modernity, and the status of women. Ghadirian is the photo editor of Women in Iran website (www.womeniniran.com) and manager of the first Iranian photography site (www.fanoosphoto.com).

Shadi made her “Like Every Day Series”, exposed in the exhibit, to show the daily repetitive routine to which many women find themselves consigned and by which many women are defined. (see above) Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in Europe, and U.S.A. She has also been featured in print and electronic media (including the New York Times, Photography Now, the Daily Telegraph, the BBC and others).

Ghadirian's pictures actually are part of another very important exhibit in New York named “BARAKAT: THE GIFT”, curated by the Italian Gaia Serena Simionati, that includes paintings, sculptures, sound and video installations, works on paper and photos from nine important contemporary artists: the Egyptians Moataz Nasr and Hamdi Attia, the Iranians Navid Azimi Sajadi, Shadi Ghadirian and Reza Derakshani, the Iraqui Halim al Karim, the Libanese Nabil Nahas, the Turkish Baris Saribas and the Italo/Senegalese Maimouna Guerresi, (I noted in the previous report about African Women Photographers).

Shadi exposes some pictures of the series “White Square”: instruments of war such as helmets and anti- gas masques with a red ribbon, as ironic symbols of the daily war in her country, while Maimouna gives her contribution with some pictures of the series “Oracles”. All the artists were chosen for their strength and poetical approach to the theme of dialogue between different cultures, acceptance, identity, transformation, through the essence of their art.

The exhibit is focused on the meaning of the word "Barakat," in Arabic: Blessing. In a more vast meaning: the Gift, a word which acts like a bridge since it has different meanings in the Iranian, North African, Jewish and Arabic culture and in France too where, through the Arab people presence, it has taken the meaning of Luck.

530 West 25th Street New York NY 10001
Opening Reception: June 3 - September 11 2010 (6 - 8 pm)

photographers Shirin Neshat, Mandana Moghaddam, Shadi Ghadirian,
Parastou Forouhar
, Maimouna Guerresi, Patrizia Pulga

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website:   www.patriziapulga.it
e-mail:   Patrizia Pulga

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Articles by Patrizia Pulga include:

Homage To African Women Photographers, (2010)
“FOCUS ON FEMALE" at Orvieto Fotografia (2009)
Sylvia Plachy/Blanca Berlin Gallery/Spain (2008)
Salutes the Women Photographers of Africa (2006)

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