Emergent is a new body of work by artist Gita Hashemi about Iranian women, specifically those who experienced Allied occupation of Iran in childhood and came of age after WWII. They were the first generation that in large numbers entered the public space, went into the labour force, participated in the processes of nation-building, and remapped the interaction of culture and gender. Presently in their late-70s and 80s, they have been sidetracked in the political and cultural upheavals in Iran over the past three decades. Similarly, their achievements as part of a global movement for women’s rights have been veiled by the sensationalist discourse in the “West” about women of the “Middle East.”
First women students at the University of Tehran, September 1936
The first women students at the University of Tehran (September 1936). Front row (left to right): Batūl Samīʿī, Zahrā Eska ndarī, Mehrangīz Manūčehrīān, Serāj-al-Nesā& #247;, Badr-al-Molūk Bāmdād, Šams-al-Molūk Mo ṣāḥeb, Ḵānom Šāhzāda K 5;vūsī. Second row (left to right): Zahrā Kīā Ḵ ānlarī, Forūḡ Kīā, Tāj-al-Molūk Naḵa& #191;ī, Šāyesta Ṣādeq, Ṭūsī Ḥ 155;ʾerī. After Bāmdād, I, p. 99. Source: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/feminist-movements-iii
Many women who had public positions before or after the 1979 Revolution live in the diasporas now (Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi is in the tail end of this generation). In Emergent, I am interested in the lives and experiences of “ordinary” and “prominent” women. I wish to explore how this now-marginalized group re-defined national identity and women’s position through their everyday activities and presence in social arenas.
Emergent’s first iteration will be a web-based archive including photographs, documents, ephemera, journal entries and sketches, recorded interactions, and oral histories (videos and/or audio). Beyond documenting the women’s lives, the archive will be a repository of my own reflections and a record of intimate inter-generational interactions. This approach locates me as artist, bearer of their legacy, and simultaneously subject and witness. It reflects the nuances and interconnections of our diverse experiences, and will help me avoid conventional documentary formulas.