Gohar Dashti; Untitled #5, 2008

Preview She Who Tells a Story

Exhibition opens May 30, advance media tours are available

In Arabic, the word rawiya means “she who tells a story.” The photographs in She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World are a collection of visual stories about contemporary life in Iran and the Arab world. 

Preview the exhibition

Members of the media may arrange a preview visit to She Who Tells a Story. Curator-led visits are available between Wednesday and Friday, May 27–29.

Please contact Jonathan Gaugler:
gauglerj@cmoa.org | 412.688.8690 (desk) | 412.216.7909 (mobile)

Access high resolution images >

The exhibition, opening May 30 at Carnegie Museum of Art, introduces the pioneering work of 12 leading women photographers who have tackled the very notion of representation with passion and power, questioning tradition and challenging perceptions of Middle Eastern identity. Their provocative work provides insights into questions of personal identity and the complex political and social landscapes of their home regions in images of great sophistication, expressiveness, and beauty.

She Who Tells a Story is an invitation not only to discover new photography, but to shift perspectives and open a cultural dialogue that begins with art. Organized into two main sections, “Constructing Identities,” and “New Documentary,” The exhibition reveals the individuality of each artist’s work, while allowing glimpses into these regions from a largely overlooked perspective: that of the women living in them. Their work challenges and dismantles Western notions about these regions, especially an entrenched, exoticized “orientalism” that has pervaded popular imagery for over a century.

When the exhibition opened at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2013, it was the first of its kind in America. The CMOA presentation includes more than 70 works by Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Shadi Ghadirian, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar, Shirin Neshat, and Newsha Tavakolian.

She Who Tells a Story is organized for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Assistant Curator of Photographs. The exhibition catalogue, also authored by Gresh, is now in its third edition.

Lalla Assia Essaydi; Bullet Revisited #3, 2012; Tryptich; chromogenic prints on aluminum; Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY. Yezerski and Miller Gallery, Boston

Lalla Assia Essaydi;
Bullet Revisited #3, 2012; Tryptich; chromogenic prints on aluminum; Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY. Yezerski and Miller Gallery, Boston

“…an ambitious and revealing exhibition…. 12 women from Iran and Arab countries—individuals all—insist that photography, despite its limitations, can still demolish the fictions that linger in our minds.”
The New York Times

“The pioneering female artists approach the theme of Middle Eastern identity with passion, fearlessness and vulnerability.”
The Huffington Post

“It couldn’t be timelier.”
photograph magazine


Opening Weekend Curator Talk
1:30-2:30 p.m., FREE
Carnegie Lecture Hall
Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Assistant Curator of Photographs at MFA Boston introduces She Who Tells a Story.



Below is an overview of the artists and their works featured in the exhibition.

Jananne Al-Ani 

  • Born in 1966 in Iraq, resides in London
  • Production still Aerial I (2011) from the single-channel digital video Shadow Sites II


Boushra Almutawakel 

  • Born in 1969 in Yemen, resides in Sana’a, Yemen, and Paris, France
  • Series of nine photographs, Mother, Daughter, Doll (2010)


Lalla Essaydi 

  • Born 1956 in Morocco, resides in Morocco and New York
  • Large-format triptych Bullets Revisited #3 (2012) and photographs from the series Converging Territories (2004)


Gohar Dashti 

  • Born in 1980 in Iran, where she still resides
  • Six photographs from the series Today’s Life and War (2008)


Rana El Nemr

  • Born in 1974 in Germany, resides in Egypt
  • Four photographs from the series The Metro (2003)


Shadi Ghadirian 

  • Born in 1974 in Iran, where she still resides
  • Five photographs from the series Nil, Nil (2008) and eight photographs from the series Qajar (1998)


Tanya Habjouqa 

  • Born in 1975 in Jordan, resides in East Jerusalem
  • Six photographs from the series Women of Gaza (2009)


Rula Halawani 

  • Born in 1964 in East Jerusalem, where she still resides
  • Six photographs in the series Negative Incursions (2002)


Nermine Hammam

  • Born in 1967 in Egypt, resides in Egypt and London
  • Ten photographs in the series Cairo Year One: Upekkha (2011) and two photographs from the series Cairo Year One: Unfolding (2012)


Rania Matar 

  • Born in 1964 in Lebanon, resides in Brookline, MA
  • Six works from the series A Girl and Her Room (2009–2012)


Shirin Neshat 

  • Born in 1957 in Iran, resides in New York
  • Untitled (1996) from the series Women of Allah (1993–1997) and the photograph Roja (Patriots) (2012) from the series Book of Kings


Newsha Tavakolian

  • Born in 1981 in Iran, where she still resides
  • Twelve photographs and one six-screen film from the series Listen (2010)



Support for She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World is provided by Cathy Raphael, Ritchie Battle, Susan and John Block, the Jack Buncher Foundation, Gordon and Kenny Nelson, Alex Paul, Nancy Bernstein, Anne Nemer Dhanda and Anuj Dhanda, Jane Greer, Ann McGuinn, Peggy McKnight, Nancy Ostrow, Laura A. Pallan, MD, Dr. and Mrs. V. Thomas Worrall III, Diane Samuels, and Mary Murtland Berger.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the oldest surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as an incubator for innovative thinking about the photographic image. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.

# # #