Shirin Neshat

Iran, 1957-Present

Rebellious Silence, 1994

Black and white RC print and ink

142 x 98 cm. (55.9 x 38.6 in.)

Photo by Cynthia Preston ©Shirin Neshat (courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussel)

Shirin Neshat’s self-photographic series Women of Allah examines the complexities of Islamic women’s identities in the midst of a changing cultural landscape in the Middle East after the Iranian Revolution. Religion, violence, and veiled women that fought in the war were significant subjects that represented that change. In Rebellious Silence, Neshat depicts the chador-clad woman in a violent context by incorporating the blunt barrel of a rifle that bisects her hardened face. The inscribed Farsi poem on her face, which was taken from Tahereh Saffarzadeh’s poem “Allegiance with wakefulness,” along with her unflinching gaze, honors the conviction and bravery of these Iranian women during the war. The artist’s intention was to emphasize the role of ‘martyrdom,’ a concept that became the heart of the revolution at the time, as it promoted the women’s faith, self-sacrifice, rejection of Western ideologies, and ultimately life after death. Thus, the woman represents the ability for Islamic women to control their own lives in opposition to the Western misconceptions that Islamic women are oppressed

Dorothy Lamina

An extended look at Shirin Neshat’s Rebellious Silence