The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb 26, 2013

Asian Arts Initiative looks at contemporary Iranian women

Posted by CSchwartz

A special exhibit at the North Chinatown Asian Arts Initiative takes a close look at what it means to be an Iranian woman, challenging both Eastern and Western notions of femininity. This Knight Arts grantee is currently displaying the show “That Person Who Is Your Creation: Iranian Women Exploring the Feminine Self” curated by Philadelphia programmer Sara Zia Ebrahimi.

The exhibit takes its title from Persion poet Forough Farrokhzad’s “Call to Arms” which advocates for women’s liberation. At a time when the news media consistently tends to focus on the threat of Iran and its burgeoning nuclear program, there is perhaps no better alternate view than that of the everyday citizen, particularly women. In a country often depicted as cut off from the outside, this show takes a closer look at the clash of modernity and tradition in a society often hidden from Americans.

Mona Shomali, "Ode to Farogh Farroghzad." Photo courtesy Asian Arts Initiative

In “That Person Who Is Your Creation”, artists Mona Shomali and Haleh Jamali address concerns of what the immigrant experience constitutes worldwide through a variety of mediums. Shomali, for instance, includes five paintings from her “Naked Folklore” series which colorfully depicts nude, Iranian women. These paintings unabashedly confront the duality of being an Iranian American, as well as what it takes to overcome such social definitions.

Haleh Jamali, still from "Someone who is not like anyone." Photo courtesy Asian Arts Initiative Haleh Jamali, still from "Someone who is not like anyone." Photo courtesy Asian Arts Initiative

Jamali includes two video installations in the show. One is a three-minute loop of a woman whose expression remains the same while her hair, clothing and accessories change quickly around her. This metamorphic video contrasts her other inclusion, “Departure,” which she created in collaboration with performer and educator Monica De loanni. In this piece, she explores females’ traditional relationship with fabric as she pushes and pulls against a veil around her body.

This exhibit serves as a way to address the concerns of the Middle East through two Iranian artists, expanding the definition of Asian American and embracing the diversity of cultures throughout the world’s largest continent. There will be an opening reception at the Asian Arts Initiative on First Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m. The show will be on view through April 26.

Asian Arts Initiative is located at 1219 Vine St., Philadelphia;;

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