LA art exhibition on Middle East women opens amid US reproductive rights row

The event brings together artworks by 42 women artists depicting the personal and universal stories of women across Islamic societies

By AFP

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Visitors looks at works including “Rhokaya, 2010” a dye coupler print by Italian-born artist Maimouna Guerresi at the press preview for the exhibition “Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond”  in Los Angeles, California. — AFP
Visitors looks at works including “Rhokaya, 2010” a dye coupler print by Italian-born artist Maimouna Guerresi at the press preview for the exhibition “Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond” in Los Angeles, California. — AFP

Published: Sat 22 Apr 2023, 9:55 PM

An exhibition of work by female artists on women in the Middle East opens in California this weekend, as a fierce battle over women's reproductive rights grips the United States.

"Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond" brings together the creations of 42 female artists, depicting what curators say are the personal and universal stories of women in Islamic societies, and aims to challenge stereotypes about this part of the world.


"So many people think that all women are the same in Middle Eastern lands, they're all oppressed, they are invisible, they have horrible lives," curator Linda Komaroff said.

"And it's not true. It's like women everywhere. They have a good deal of agency and they act upon it."


Exhibits come from all over the Middle East and beyond, but include a number from Iran, which has been shaken in recent months after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested for allegedly not properly wearing the compulsory veil.

One powerful picture by Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian shows an Iranian woman in traditional clothes —also wearing a pair of boxing gloves.

Another, by Shirin Aliabadi, showcases the irrepressible spirit of a younger generation, depicting a woman whose blonde wig pokes out from under her scarf as she blows a bubble with gum.

The exhibition comes as the United States has been thrown into tumult over the issue of abortion, after the US Supreme Court last year struck down the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

Komaroff said the ongoing fight over abortion rights in the United States meant this was a timely exhibition.

"Things are kind of going downhill for women in America in terms of our own control over our own bodies," she said.

"American women have been complacent. It's easy for them to look to another country or another region and say, 'We're better off than they are.'

"But maybe we're not. Maybe we're all in the same boat together."

The exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opens Sunday and runs until September 24.



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