Five Middle Eastern women — three from Iran, one from Israel and one from Lebanon — came together for a common cause.
Although in their homelands they would be considered enemies, they’ve come together to say “no more.”
During the course of about a year, they have been putting together a body of work that encompassed their experiences, struggles and hopes for the future.
In this very personal exhibition, they tackle women’s issues and cultural issues that regard their homelands and include the women’s reactions.
From Iran, Mehri Dadgar tries to illustrate the pain, injustice and torture that many Iranian prisoners experienced in the late 1980s.
“This work is a tribute to the thousands of political prisoners who were massacred in 1988 in Iran’s prisons, and to their families, who have never stopped the struggle to break the silence and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Dadgar.
She has photographs and paintings of some of the atrocities suffered by the prisoners. A long plaque with the names of the missing prisoners hangs on a wall, remembering those who have probably perished unjustly for their beliefs.
She also demonstrates some of the punishments they endured. All the women take their work personally, and Mehri’s work is particularly emotional.
She experienced firsthand the tortures she exhibits, she was a prisoner who made it out, and now, she wants to bring light to these events.
“This exhibition reflects only a glimpse of the enormous pain in our tortured homeland,” said Mehri.
Women’s issues and the strict laws that are still enforced in the Middle East, are another group of topics that Aazam Irillian, also from Iran, touches on.
Her body of work includes some paintings and a very startling, yet powerful sculpture. Her sculpture portrays a life-sized model of a woman who has been stoned to death, wrapped in white sheets. Although it’s very graphic, it definitely gets the idea across; there is no gentle way of depicting the topic. Although there are many strict rules and codes women have to abide by in Iran, Aazam chose the stoning of women.
“I, an Iranian woman, despise the inhumane ‘stoning’ laws that are written in the Iranian Penal code,” said Irillian. “In the name of humanity, I call for the removal of these such articles from the Iranian Penal code.”
The third Iranian artist of this group, Behroo Bagheri, takes a slightly different approach.
Her work is more symbolic, with her use of images, that color even the medium. One of her pieces is a painting of a game board that seems quite infantile and nostalgic.
In fact, she does have a lot of nostalgia for her youth and memories in her country. These innocent and child-like feelings are contrasted by dark colors, blotches of black paint that represent the negative aspects of living in Iran, the injustice, gender issues, and conservatism.
This elaborate game board weaves a social narrative of a generation that has been deprived of basic human rights. Behroo tries to express what it is like to be a woman living in exile.
“My works are the voices of those in my generation who have been overruled by the Islamic Regime … a generation of people who have suffered from the oppressive atmosphere of the fundamentalist society with its restrictive social policies and discriminations,” said Bagheri.
War is a topic that many can relate to, especially now. Hala Kobaissi presented her version of war and destruction in Lebanon.
Her large canvases have illustrations and authentic newspaper clippings with appalling images of war. She wants viewers to see, through her eyes, what it is to fear the unexpected; to see actual photographs of missing people and to see the overall consequences of war.
On May 6, she will be having a more elaborate exhibition on this topic. The show will be entitled “Days of Wrath.”
Amidst all this pain and struggle, Ettie Lerner of Israel offers a ray of hope. Her work is concerned with the hopeful aspect to all this chaos, that one day, Israel might be as it once was.
In her paintings, she uses a lot of colors to signify this yearning for a happier life. “Her Jerusalem” is a colorful painting which shows that she wants peace.
“The depiction of certain images reflects my hope and desire for peace, for the end of the political conflict and survival and security issues,” said Lerner.
These five women, along with Samantha Fields and Professor Bee Colman, put the exhibition together.
Their goal was to have people of different backgrounds work together in harmony, showing the world that it is not an impossible feat.
Their reason for coming together was bigger than just hanging art. They were all working toward peace, and they came together to share their pain.
“At CSUN we embrace people of different backgrounds coming together to work on something positive,” said Fields.