Work of Women Artists from Islamic World Exhibited at Yale

New Haven, CT — A landmark international exhibition of work by women artists from Islamic countries is on display at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, 409 Prospect Street, from September 1 to December 12, 2009.

Sponsored by Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies (CMES), “Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World” is a selection of work by well-established female artists – some veiled, some not – from Islamic countries as diverse as Sudan, Malaysia, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, as well as the Near East, the Gulf states, and North Africa. All works come from the esteemed collection of the Royal Society of Fine Arts of Jordan, with works by the Society’s founder and president, Princess Dr. Wijdan Al-Hashemi, also an artist, included in the exhibit.

CMES is working closely with the ArtReach Foundation, the non-profit chosen by HRH Princess Wijdan and the Royal Society to be the exhibition’s exclusive presenting organization in the United States, as well as the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and the Yale Divinity School, to bring this timely exhibit to the Yale and New Haven communities.

Designed to challenge stereotypes and enliven popular and academic discourses on women and the arts in the Islamic world, “Breaking the Veils” was brought to Yale by the Chair of CMES Marcia C. Inhorn, the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, and new CMES Outreach Director Molly Moran. As Inhorn said, “Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies is very proud to be sponsoring this unique exhibit of contemporary women’s art. The pieces themselves are striking, and truly help us to see that Muslim women are engaged in very modern and brilliant forms of artistic expression. The exhibit is rightfully called ‘Breaking the Veils’ because it helps to break down Western misunderstandings about women’s lives and the role of art in the Muslim world.”

“Breaking the Veils” was inaugurated in September 2002 by Her Majesty Queen Rania AlAbdullah of Jordan at Porte d’Amboise in Rhodes, Greece. Comprising works by 52 artists representing 21 Islamic countries, the collection covers a wide range of media, from oils, acrylics and watercolors to silk-screens, etchings, collages, and treated photographic print. As HRH Queen Rania said, the exhibition “is a resounding tribute to gifted female artists, representing the many different regions, cultures, and religious traditions residing together in Dar El Islam.”

To coincide with the Yale showing, Moran and Jasmine Melvin-Koushki, the curator of the exhibition, have developed a program to address themes and questions presented by the works on display. “As a woman whose impression of life has been formed between East and West, it gives me great pleasure to help bring this exhibit to life for an American audience,” said MelvinKoushki, a Yale alumna with Irish-American and Iranian roots.

Melvin-Koushki cautions against an oversimplified reading of the exhibition’s title, which, she said, “should not be equated with the all-too-common discourse of liberating Muslim women from behind or beyond their veils. Rather, it suggests the action of chipping away at a distorted image of Middle Eastern women as somehow uniquely in need of liberation in the first place.” Together with the lectures, performances, films, and roundtable events that will complement it, the exhibition is designed to encourage students to think differently about longstanding stereotypes in the way that the subject of Middle Eastern women – especially those living in the Islamic world – is framed in the popular media, note the exhibition’s organizers.

Free and open to the public, the exhibition may be viewed on weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Institute of Sacred Music


Contact Information:

Marilyn Wilkes

The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale

(203) 432-3413