13shirin_neshat.jpgShirin Neshat (1957-) Is an Iranian born American visual artist who works with photography and film; she currently lives and works in New York City. At the age of 17 she left Iran to study art and obtained a degree from the University of California, Berkley. Her work deals with the issues surrounding women in the Muslim world, specifically her home country of Iran, politics, gender, sexuality and feelings of displacement and loss.

From 1993-1997, Neshat explored the concept of martyrdom in the Muslim world with a series of black and white photographs titled Women of Allah, women are veiled, their skin overlaid with the calligraphy of Persian poems and many of whom are depicted with firearms.


"Women of Allah, a photographic series (1993-1997). Here, the images became iconic, and monumental in how they portrayed a typical female
warrior in Iran. I had been fascinated by a study of the concept of martyrdom in the post revolutionary Iran so I went on to make this series which
basically attempted to analyze and comprehend the basis of such thinking, on personal, philosophical and political terms."[1]

"In 1997 when I felt that I had exhausted the subject of Islamic Revolution and theme of martyrdom, my work began to take a turn. The work became far more philosophical than directly political, and this is exactly when I decided to also shift from the medium photography to video, which allowed for a more poetic and subversive language. So 1998 marked the end of Women of Allah series and the beginning of my video based work which led to the making of Turbulence, Rapture, Fervor, Possessed, Passage, Pulse, and Soliloquy."[2]

Since 2003, Neshat has been engaged in an ambitious two-part video/film project based on (and titled after) the 1989 novel Women without Men by the Iranian writer Shahrnush Parsipur. The projects five individual videos--Mahdokht (2004), Zarin (2005), Munis (2008), Faezeh (2008) and Farokh Legha (2008)--each of which center on one of the female characters in the novel, have recently been brought together into a single multi-room installation.[3]

The movie, which pulls from and spins off both the installation and the novel, was released in 2009 and went on to win a Silver Lion award for best director at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. [4] It is a breathtaking film, most characters speaking in Farsi and weaving together the lives and journey of four women impacted directly and indirectly by their culture, religion and the political upheaval of the 1953 coup to overthrow the Shah by American and British forces. The book and film have both been banned in Iran as well as many Middle Eastern countries due to its controversial depictions of politics, women, sexuality and gender roles.

In an interview with Eleanor Hearney, Neshat stated "For Iranians, who have endured one dictatorship after another, poetic metaphoric language is a way to express all that is not allowed in reality."[5]

"My film is philosophical, political and feminine, I never wanted to portray my characters as victims. I wanted to show women are are oppressed and against the wall - due to sexual, religious or social pressure - but who all undergo a positive transformation...The women took their destinies in their own hands. They didn't conform and they showed strength and courage. I wished to leave the impression that every struggle is precious and positive and this includes both the women in the film and the people of Iran."[6]
  1. ^
    Dalby, Alexa. "International acclaim for Iranian Director." Middle East 406 (2009): 60-61
  2. ^
    Ebrahimian, Babak A. "Framing Diaspora." Feminist Media Studies 6.1 (2006):85-99
  3. ^
    Dalby, Alexa. "International acclaim for Iranian Director." Middle East 406 (2009): 60-61
  4. ^
    Dalby, Alexa. "International acclaim for Iranian Director." Middle East 406 (2009): 60-61
  5. ^
    Heartney, Eleanor. "Shirin Neshat. (Cover story)." Art in America 97.6 (2009): 153-159
  6. ^
    Dalby, Alexa. "International acclaim for Iranian Director." Middle East 406 (2009): 60-61