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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘She Who Tells a Story’ exhibit on display at MFA

This+exhibit+runs+until+Jan.+12.+Admission+is+free+with+a+valid+student+ID.+For+more+information+on+this+and+other+exhibits+at+the+MFA%2C+visit+www.mfa.org.

This exhibit runs until Jan. 12. Admission is free with a valid student ID. For more information on this and other exhibits at the MFA, visit www.mfa.org.

On Aug. 27, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) opened the exhibit, “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World,” within the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery.
The word, “rawiya,” means “she who tells a story” in Arabic, and this exhibit features the work of 12 renown photographers who tell a story in her own way. Curator Kristen Gresh notes that the work of the artists in this exhibit does not reflect the stereotypical portrayal of Arab women: “[the artists] challenge that viewpoint, beckoning us to confront our own pre-conceptions and to explore new cultural landscapes.”
The art on display includes still lifes, portraits, staged and candid photos, aerial shots, and videos. These works cover the time between the 1990s and present day, including the protests in Egypt in January 2011.
The exhibit is comprised of two sections, entitled “Deconstructing Orientalism” and “Constructing Identities.” Within the former part of the exhibit, three of the photographers featured photos that were untitled, which almost beckons the viewers to muse on what might be appropriate titles for each work.
Gohar Dashti is one such artist whose six photographs are all untitled. They feature staged tableaus of a man and a woman on a battleground performing various everyday activities, such as celebrating a birthday and hanging laundry to dry. Works like these ask the viewer to consider the ways in which war and the military and the personal, private matters meld into and live with each other in a way that it is hard to tell the boundaries where one starts and the other ends.
The concept of ambiguous boundaries continues in the “Constructing Identities” part of the exhibit, where the theme of veiling and unveiling recurs in the work of several different photographers. The works in this section feature mostly portrait photography, frequently depicting women who look directly at the camera and force viewers to return an unblinking gaze.
One particularly striking series of photographs that was constantly attended to was the “Mother, Daughter, Doll” series of pigment prints created by Boushra Almutawakel, born in Yemen. Read left to right, the photos depict a woman, child, and doll garbed in colorful clothing that, with each frame, changes to black and covers more of the skin.
The respect for the subject matter is reflected in the atmosphere within the gallery. Occupants are quiet, and there is an almost meditative quality to the gallery despite the usual excitement and activity that fills the museum on Saturday afternoons.
This exhibit runs until Jan. 12. Admission is free with a valid student ID. For more information on this and other exhibits at the MFA, visit www.mfa.org.