Sheherzade’s Gift: Subversive Narratives

Organized by Jaishri Abichandani, Independent Curator and former director, South Asian Women’s Creative Collective.

One of the most enduring and influential books in global popular culture is A Thousand and One Nights. Understood as an amalgamation of fables originating from West and South Asia, its main protagonist is the fictional Queen Sheherzade, whose stories are told to countless young girls from North Africa to South East Asia. The Queen has been a polarizing figure for many women who have grown up with her, some berating her for failing to challenge patriarchal mores while others have a keener understanding of the nature of her subversions.

It is with this impetus that Sheherzade’s Gift examines the work of women artists from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Egypt and Bangladesh who reside in the US. Their lived experiences vary from being recent immigrants to being second generation Americans. A Thousand and One Nights is one of the oldest references from the Islamic world to permeate popular culture, giving us Aladdin and Princess Jasmine through animated movies and toys, but it is Sheherzade who is a more compelling character for the artists within this exhibition. The works in the exhibition, many of which are text based, include painting, sculpture, video, and performance. They traverse through urban and natural landscapes that lay open their experiences. The show focuses on the influence of book content rather than the book form itself in order to demonstrate the ongoing critical impact of the book narrative as source material for contemporary artistic practices. Through painting, sculpture, video and performance, these artists describe many worlds. Telling stories filled with humor and pathos, they traverse through urban and natural landscapes that lay open their experiences.

Artists include:

Nida Abidi

Negar Ahkami

Fariba Salma Alam

Ambreen Butt

Ruby Chishti

Dahla Elsayed

Roya Farassat

Mariam Ghani

Meena Hasan

Gita Hashemi

Mala Iqbal

Mona Saeed Kamal

Gelare Khoshgozaran

Sa’dia Rehman

Nooshin Rostami

Hiba Schahbaz

Negin Sharifzadeh

Katherine Toukhy

Support for the Center for Book Arts’ visual arts programming is provided, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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