Feminist beauty on display: The IARS Women’s Invitational Exhibition 2017

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My mother used to say “History is rarely made without uppity women”, and I think Shafaq Ahmad of Texas would agree with her completely.

Shafaq Ahmad is IARS (Islamic Art Revival Series) Art Director and Exhibition Curator for this year’s Women’s Invitational.  The Islamic Art Revival Series was started by Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation (“Muslim Women for All Women”), founded in 2005 by strong independent women to strengthen families of all faiths by fostering volunteerism, education, and cultural understanding through interfaith outreach.

Two considerations were vital to Director Shafaq as she selected the ten women to participate in this year’s invitational – each woman had to be a consummate art professional in her own right, and each woman was required to be a first generation immigrant to the United States.  “I was familiar with their work and thought processes”, Shafaq explains, “but collaborating with these artists for this exhibition allowed me to make many more discoveries about their work and to appreciate their struggles and aspirations as artists.”

From the Exhibition website:

This exhibition will focus on the art of these women artists who create work which not only reflects the strong bond to their own heritage but the experience of living in the USA, their new permanent home, and how this experience has influenced the work they are presenting now.

One of the truly remarkable women in Islamic history is the wife of the Prophet, Khadija bint Khuwaylid.  A true self-made woman, she was well-educated, resourceful, and astonishingly successful in a time and place where all the cards had been stacked against her; she was so trusted by God and the Prophet she even became the first scribe of the Qur’an and holds the title “Mother of the Believers”.  A pillar of faithfulness, strength, courage, and all the very best aspects of feminism, her example remains applicable even to today.

I think she would be pleased with Shafaq Ahmad’s work and the contributions of these remarkable artists.

This exhibit is also a celebration of National Women’s History Month – in addition to being accomplished professionals, each of the women involved are continually shattering all sorts of preconceptions just like Khadija did all those centuries ago.

The ten artists are Sarah Ahmad from Georgia, Nida Bangash from Texas, Sue Ewing from Texas, Nina Gharbansadeh from Wisconsin, Saberah Malik from Massachusetts, Hend Al Mansour from Minnesota, Roya Mansourkhani from Texas, Naoko Marisawa from Washington, Sudi Sharaf from New York, and Helen Zughaib from Washington, DC.  Each has a unique and powerful style, displaying the strength which results from confidence, experience, and diversity.  They’re the kind of “uppity” I hope my daughters emulate.

From the Exhibition catalog:

The work is innovative, daring, inspiring and presents unique personal narratives, techniques and diverse viewpoints that contribute to understanding and appreciation of many cultures from different parts of the world.

Sudi Sharaf’s work is powerful and striking, while Hend Al Mansour displays her lyric observations with an understated humor.  As a quilter myself I’m taken with the patterns and energy of Helen Zughaib’s pieces, and I enjoy Saberah Malik’s bold rhythms.  Each of the ten artists are remarkable and their works are thought-provoking and satisfying – while undeniably Muslim artists, their works speak across all boundaries.

What was the reaction to all these “uppity” women?  Pleased, Shafaq told me, “The exhibition has been received extremely well.”

This exhibit validates one of my favorite hadith – God is Beautiful and loves beauty.

Director Ahmad has done a wonderful job.

The exhibit runs from March 1st through March 26th, 2017, at the Eisemann Center of Performing and Visual Arts in Richardson, Texas.

For more information, please visit the exhibition site at islamicartrevival.com.  For information regarding the exhibition catalog, please contact samia@islamicartrevival.com.

IARS Womens Invitational 2017
IARS Women’s Invitational 2017




Previously on Ismailimail…

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. Great article on women, as we are told to learn the Holy Quran, knowing our beloved Prophet’s (PBUH) to know
    who he was and his family. Remarkable.


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