There are exhibitions that touch you somewhere deep inside. Far from merely delighting you visually, they grab you by the hand and they take you somewhere, they teach you something, they plant a new, curious seed inside of you. And they make you want to learn more so you can really understand and appreciate, rather than just look and admire. These are the shows that stay with you for a long time after you've seen them, and you keep revisiting them in your head, time and time again.
All of the above was true for me in the case of Soheila Sokhanvari's beautifully curated show at the The Curve, on the ground floor of the Barbican. Iran-born, Britain-based Sokhanvari reveals the untold stories of Iran's pre-revolutionary feminist icons - poets, writers, dancers, singers, actresses - bringing them back from erasure and returning them to the spotlight the belong in. The portraits are exquisite and intricate. Framed in colourful, hypnotising patterns oozing poignant symbolisms, the women appear defiant, bold, magnetic, vulnerable, mysterious, inspiring, forcefully life-affirming despite the sadness of their fate. These talented trailblazers all fought against the patriarchy in their own way, all were silenced by the totalitarian theocratic regime.
If you follow the artist's Instagram account, she will very generously tell you more about each of these women, bringing you even closer to them and helping you to understand why they should be celebrated. My favourite? The portrait of movie superstar Forouzan, the first image in this post, who after the 1979 revolution was banned from acting. I love how she's leaning forward, with such tremendous audacity and self-assuredness.
© Soheila Sokhanvari