Arts, Culture & Entertainment

LACMA’s latest exhibit honors women’s voices across the Middle East and beyond

Women across the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia explore identity, belonging and community history through art.

A photo of two photographs side by side on a white wall. One shows a girl with a pink bow and the other shows a girl with a head covering on.

If there’s one thing about Los Angeles, it’s that you will find art at almost every corner of the city. From murals to one of a kind exhibits, the city’s rich cultural and diverse landscape is reflected in the art found across the city.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, most commonly known as LACMA, welcomed one of its newest exhibits this past Sunday, April 23. Reflecting on the multidimensional experiences of women’s voices across the globe, the exhibit “Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond” features 75 thought-provoking works by female artists from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Pakistan, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, the United States and more. The collection of works touches upon various themes from historical moments like the Iranian Revolution, political moments like the refugee crisis and topics like belonging, collective memory, female identity, colonial histories and the poetics of everyday life.

What shines through in the exhibit is the wide array of mediums present within the collection. Attendees can immerse themselves in photography and video installations, while also enjoying often overlooked art forms such as embroidery, cardboard and steel sculptures and photo collages.

A photo of a neon sign that says "Daughter of Ghamar" in Arabic. The sign is red and it is against a plain wall.

The exhibit also features the work of Los Angeles based visual artist, Yasmine Nasser Diaz. Her piece titled “Hanna bint (daughter of) Ghamar,” a neon installation in Arabic, creates a space for conversation around patronymic practices. Within traditional Arab households, a child’s name is often tied to the father’s through titles such as “son of” (ibn) or “daughter of” (bint). Yasmine Nasser Diaz uses her birth name “Hanna’' and her mother’s name “Ghamar” to identify herself as the daughter of her mother, who would otherwise be known as the mother or umm of her first-born son. Through this piece, Yasmine Nasser Diaz essentially works away from the traditional practices tied to identity and gender, and instead honors her mother as her own person.

A photo of a young woman sitting in a rocky setting with old photographs, a camera and a scarf scattered in the foreground.

Marvel fans will be delighted to know the exhibit also features a portrait of Pakistani-Canadian actress, Iman Vellani who will return as Kamala Khan in the upcoming film, “The Marvels.” The portrait, taken by Lebanese-American photographer Rania Matar, features Iman Vellani with her grandfather’s camera, grandmother’s scarf and a collection of vintage family photographs from her motherland, Pakistan.

A photo of an artwork that features a woman on a couch that has an ornate pattern.

Unlike the narratives we find across mainstream media, the exhibit does a noteworthy job at challenging the tropes we often come across regarding Muslim communities by inviting audiences to step inside the beauty of women’s contributions to art. Taking into consideration the unique experiences of women from South Asia, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa and North America, the exhibit provides a refreshing experience by centering the voices of women from some of the most culturally and artistically rich regions of the world. Essentially, the exhibit speaks for itself—curating a space where women define women.

A photo of a framed photograph of two young girls.

The exhibit’s inspiring ambience offers a new audio-visual experience for attendees interested in celebrating and diving deeper into the artistic traditions of Muslim societies and its diasporic communities—and it should not be missed.

‘Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond’ is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California until September 24th 2023.