The Moroccan writer and sociologist Fatema Mernissi developed the concept of the exhibition and heads the entire project. She was born 1940 in Fez and grew up in a harem herself. She has published her personal experience, observations, reflections, and cultural historical studies on the theme in several books, amongst them: "Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems" (Washington Square Press, 2001).
The exhibition, which has been produced by the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, encompasses 150 works and brings western and eastern attitudes of myth and of reality of the harem together. The paintings, drawings, and graphic works of western artists from the 19th and 20th centuries are dominated by exotic and erotic fantasies. They include famous masterpieces by Ingres, Delacroix, Matisse, and Picasso. These are confronted with miniatures, prints, and books by Turkish and Persian masters, and from the Indian Mughal Dynasty, with its totally different aesthetics and perspectives. Original photographs document life in the harem.
The exhibition closes with “new Scheherazades” – works by contemporary female artists from the Near East and northern Africa, or the Diaspora in the West, whose concern is with the traditional attitude towards women in their respective countries of origin:
Jananne Al-Ani, Ghada Amer, Samta Benyahia, Shadi Gadirian, Ghazel, Selma Gurbuz, Susan Hefuna, Malekeh Nayini, Shirin Neshat, Houria Niati, Raeda Saadeh, Zineb Sedira, Nadine Touma.
19 Febr. - 18 May 2003
Concept and direction:
Centre de Cultura Contemp.de Barcelona
C/ Montalegre 5