NAZAR Photographs from the Arab World

  December –
January 2006

“Come on, get out of here” Ahmed, Fatma’s borther, painting. A photograph by Farida Hamak from the exhibition NAZAR: photographs from the Arab world at Gallery of Photography Ireland, December 6 – January 29 2006.

Nazar – from the arabic word for ‘insight’ – is an important and timely exhibition of contemporary photographs from the Arab world. It challenges our image of a world we think we know.

The exhibition brings together work by ten photographers from eight countries. All the images are being shown in Ireland for the first time. It includes both insiders’ and visitors’ perceptions of a troubled region. In the West, the Arab world has become synonymous with confrontation and violence. Terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and that between modernists and Moslem fundamentalists: these dominate the front pages of our newspapers daily. But how representative is that image for such a diverse region? What is hidden behind the headlines and the breaking news? These are the questions at the heart of the exhibition.

Al Kufa, Iraq - 4/5/3 - Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Assault Division puruse some gentlemen's entertainment while at their makeshift barracks in Al Kufa, a suburb of An Najaf. Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Corbis from the exhibition NAZAR at Gallery of Photography Ireland, December 6 - January 29 2006.

Al Kufa, Iraq – 4/5/3 – Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Assault Division puruse some gentlemen’s entertainment while at their makeshift barracks in Al Kufa, a suburb of An Najaf. Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Corbis from the exhibition NAZAR at Gallery of Photography Ireland, December 6 – January 29 2006.

In a series of self-portraits (pictured), Tarek Al-Ghoussein (Palestine/Kuwait) takes on the stereotype of the Palestinian terrorist – a work that earned him time in an Arab prison. Similarly challenging stereotypes, Diana Matar (USA) explores the polarised meanings associated with wearing the Islamic headscarf. Whereas in the West it often stands for oppression and backwardness, in the Arab world the scarf is a symbol of religious devotion. Matar short-circuits the symbolic charge, showing instead how absolutely matter of fact wearing it is in ordinary life in Egypt.

Rawi Hage (Lebanon/Canada) presents a pointed critique of post-colonial pretensions to social equality in a series of portraits of wealthy Lebanese families posing with their domestic staff. Social division of a different kind is the focus of Gaston Zvi Ickowicz’ (Argentina/Israel) work on the ‘peace lines’ in the occupied territories. Hidden aspects of daily life are revealed in works by Farida Hamak (Algeria/France); Randa Shaath (Egypt/USA); and Lars Tunbjork (Sweden); while Benjamin Lowy’s (USA) unflinching images of US soldiers in Iraq provide a powerful insight into the clash of cultures underlying the war. Lowy’s work will be projected onto the big  screen at Meeting House Square every Wednesday  night in December.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated, full-colour book available in the Gallery Bookshop at €32.80.