She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World

September 20, 2019 - December 1, 2019

Wedding couple in car in burned out landscape

During this critical time for Iran and the Arab world, as national and personal identities are being dismantled and rebuilt, contemporary photography reflects the complexities of unprecedented change. One of the most significant trends to emerge is the work of women photographers, whose remarkable and provocative images provide insights into new cultural landscapes, questioning tradition and challenging perceptions of Middle Eastern and Arab identity. “She Who Tells a Story” brings together the vital pioneering work of 12 leading artists, ranging in genre from portraiture to documentary: 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. The exhibition features over 80 photographs, lent by the artists, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the collection of James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach.

In related news, the Ackland recently launched a major initiative to build its collection of art from the Islamic world. A small exhibition, presented in conjunction with “She Who Tells a Story,” will showcase seven recent purchases, including calligraphic manuscripts, textiles, metalwork and an architectural fragment all dating from the 8th century CE to the 17th century. It opens on Friday, September 13; there will be one rotation of the textiles and Qur’anic manuscripts on Friday, November 22, midway through the show.

Exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Click here to read the press release.
Click here to listen to artist Rania Matar’s interview on WUNC’s The State of Things.
Click on the arrow below to hear the radio commercial

Come to the Ackland Art Museum to see “She Who Tells a Story: Woman Photographers from Iran and the Arab World.” The exhibition features over 80 remarkable photographs by 12 leading artists, ranging in style from portraiture to documentary. Open from September 20th through December 1st at the Ackland Art Museum, located at 101 South Columbia Street in downtown Chapel Hill. Admission to the Ackland is always free. The Ackland: Look Close, Think Far.

She Who Tells a Story Public Programs

Family Weekend: Start with Art Breakfast & Tour of She Who Tells a Story
September 21, 2019 | 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

2nd Friday ArtWalk
Through Her Lens: Modern Arab Women Telling Their Stories in Art and Literature
October 11, 2019 | 6:30-8 p.m.

Featuring the 2019 Man Booker Prize-winner Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (translator Marilyn Booth). Cohosted by Carolina Public Humanities.
Advance ticket required. Ticket price includes a copy of the book and light refreshments at the program.

Artist Talk: Rania Matar
October 23, 2019 | 7 p.m Free and open to the public; RSVP requested.

Family & Friends Sunday
October 27, 2019 | 2-5 p.m.

2nd Friday ArtWalk
Pop-Up Artist Books Show from the Sloane Art Library
November 8, 2019 | 6-8:30 p.m.

She Who Tells A Story Guided Tours

Free, drop-in tour of She Who Tells A Story, led by an Ackland docent

October 2, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
October 25, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
October 30, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 13, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 15, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 20, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 21, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 22, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 27, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.
November 29, 2019 | 1:30 p.m.

Last Look Tour with Peter Nisbet
December 1, 2019 | 3:30 p.m.

Ackland Film Forum

Ackland Film Forum: Recent Films by Arab Women Filmmakers
Tuesdays, Oct 29, Nov 5, Nov 12, Nov 19 | 7 p.m. at the Varsity Theatre


October 29, 2019: The Blessed
Dir. Sofia Djama, Qatar, 2017

November 5, 2019: Mussolini’s Sister
Dir. Juna Suleiman, Palestine, 2018
Introductory Remarks by Yaron Shemer (Asian Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill)

November 12, 2019: Women Without Men
Dir. Shirin Neshat, Iran, 2009
Introductory Remarks by Ehsan Sheikholharam (Religious Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill)

November 19, 2019: 3000 Nights
Mai Masri, Palestine, 2016
Introductory Remarks by Nadia Yaqub (Asian Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill)


$7; Free with UNC One Card
Tickets available at the Varsity Theatre, 123 E. Franklin St.


The Ackland Film Forum’s Fall 2019 series Recent Films by Arab Women Filmmakers is organized by the UNC Department of Asian Studies, the UNC Global Cinema Studies program in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and the Ackland Art Museum. The series is presented in connection with the Ackland’s current exhibition She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World (on view through December 1, 2019). The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Image credit: Gohar Dashti (b. 1980). Untitled #5. From the series Today’s Life and War, 2008. Pigment print. Courtesy of the artist, Azita Bina and Robert Klein Gallery, Boston. Used with artist’s permission.