Realism in Rawiya: Photographic Stories from the Middle East, Impressions Gallery, Bradford

Six female photographers Myriam Abdelaziz, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Laura Boushnak, Tanya Habjouqa, Dalia Khamissy and Newsha Tavakolian comprise Rawiya, the first all-female collective to emerge from the Middle East. With this exhibition they hold a specific focus on gender and identity, depicting the contradictions, stereotypes, social and political issues of a region in flux.

The collective’s Arabic title, Rawiya, translates to ‘she who tells a story’ and is fitting for a group of women who were all established photojournalists for various Arabic news channels and publications before becoming artists. Their previous careers provided an insider’s view of the extremities of their regions, whilst also observing how their reportage could become reframed, lose or take on new context in the international media.

The photographers look at internationally newsworthy events through a local eye, resulting in an intimate and personal insight. Their images of everyday life across the Middle East include previously untold tales: a Palestinian all-female auto-racing team to transsexuals living in Jerusalem, from cluster bomb survivors trying to rebuild their lives to the Iranian mothers of martyrs and Lebanese parents who still wait for the 17,000 missing to come home.

Many artists in Rawiya have also lived their own stories, for example Dalia Khamissy’s The Missing: Lebanon (2010 – ongoing) echoes her own experience of her father’s kidnap when she was seven years old. Artist Newsha Tavakolian states that the work of Rawiya offers ‘a way of breathing within the smothering world of censorship.’

Realism in Rawiya: Photographic Stories from the Middle East, 18 February – 16 May. Impressions Gallery, Bradford City Park, Aldermanbury, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1SD. For more information visit The show is a touring exhibition by New Art Exchange, Nottingham.

Follow us on Twitter @AestheticaMag for the latest news in contemporary art and culture.

1. Tanya Habjouqa, Untitled, from the Women of Gaza series, 2009 © Tanya Habjouqa