Realism in Rawiya brings fresh perspectives on the Middle East to New Art Exchange

By Mark Sheerin | 09 January 2013
Colour photo of a young dread-locked Arab man
From Tamara Abdul Hadi, Picture an Arab Man series© Tamara Abdul Hadi

Exhibition Preview: Realism in Rawiya, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, January 25 – April 20 2013

Bringing together six female photojournalists from the Middle East, this show put together by New Art Exchange promises to be more than the sum of its parts. Some may be surprised they even have women in such roles in that part of the world; this show is definitely for them.

Rawiya is the name given to this group’s collective identity, and it comes from the Arabic for She who tells a story. So these realist narrators show us some unfamiliar sides to life in the troubled region.

It may also surprise you to witness arab body builders, an all female Palestinian auto racing team, and a thriving transsexual subculture in Jerusalem.

These studies are part of the prolific output of Tanya Habjouqa, who provides the show with plenty of hooks. But given the ongoing trouble in the Middle East, it is inevitable that other members of Rawiya find their realism in more familiar spheres.

Myriam Abdelaziz captures the war of words in Cairo, shooting the graffiti as it changes day by day; Newsha Tavakolian shoots never-to-be seen cover art for the CDs which musical Iranian women are banned from releasing; Laura Boushnak explores life for the survivors of cluster bombs in the wake of the Hezbollah-Israeli war of 2006.

But perhaps the most daring series in the show is Picture an Arab Man by Tamara Abdul Hadi. This is said to reveal the softer and more sensual side to the martyrs and mullahs of popular imagination in the west.

By changing perceptions, Rawiya are surely changing their region one photo at a time.

  • Admission free. Open 9am – 5pm Monday to Saturday. Follow the gallery on Twitter @newartexchange.

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