Three Iranian Women Push For Artistic Freedom

Shirin Neshat, Nazy Nazhand and Sheree Hovsepian are three Iranian women who are using their art and photography to push for artistic freedom and of freedom for women in Iran.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Shirin Neshat is a 66-year-old photographer and filmmaker, Nazy Nazhand is an art adviser and Sheree Hovsepian is an artist. They were all born in Iran but moved to the United States in the 70s and 80s.

Iran has been at the centre of international attention for its treatment of women and especially for its enforcement of the veil on women. In 2022, Urban Woman Magazine wrote on the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who was killed for not following the hijab stipulations in Iran. Her death saw a global outrage and saw Iranian women making videos of themselves cutting their hair and burning their hijabs.

Amini’s death also gave rise to the Woman, Life and Freedom movement.

Neshat, who has done a photography series called Women of Allah is a strong supporter of the Woman, Life and Freedom movement. Her work has been featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art and in major global cities like Venice, Amsterdam and Montreal. 

Nazy Nazhand, an art adviser, became friends with Neshat during an earlier uprising in Iran. It was during the 2009 Green movement which was sparked by the Iranian presidential election. In the next decade, Nazhand established a collective to promote emerging artists in the Middle East. She has been instrumental in placing the work of Neshat and Hovsepian in private and institutional collections. She also plans on launching the Nazhand Art and Culture agency in the coming year.

Sheree Hovsepian met the other two women, through her husband Rashid Johnson, who introduced her to Shirin Neshat. Hovsepian had earlier encountered Neshat’s Women of Allah series as a photography student in Ohio, America.

Today, her own artwork incorporates black-and-white photography with a special focus on the female form.

Currently, Neshat is exiled from Iran where much of her family still lives. She believes however in the power of social media to draw international attention to women’s political inequality that is often rife in Iran.

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