NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Heartland Community College (HCC) is featuring an exhibit showcasing photographs by 50 Iranian female artists expressing what life is like for women in Iran.
Being a Woman: Iranian Artists’ Reflection is an installation of dozens of photographs and digital art curated by Shahrbanoo Hamzeh, exhibition coordinator at Heartland Community College, at the Joe McCauley Gallery on HCC’s Normal campus. It’s her first collection and the first one of its kind at HCC.
“You are never enough in my country as a woman,” said Hamzeh, who was born and raised in Iran. She came to the United States four years ago to pursue her Master of Fine Arts at Illinois State University.
Hamzeh said she wants to shine a light on the sanctioned oppression of women in Iran. She said they are treated as second-class citizens by the government.
“Domestic violence is tolerated to the point of femicide, and it’s not okay. There is no way for women to get help because the law is against them,” she said.
Hamzeh said women in Iran are constantly in survival mode.
“Many women in Iran think that’s the way it is everywhere,” she said. “You are fighting to stay alive to survive and you don’t know what’s happening to you until you leave the situation.”
All of the photos were sent digitally and reproduced locally because of censorship by the Iranian regime.
“It’s another layer of not being safe. Being a woman is a problem by itself but being an artist is not that appreciated either … That’s one of the reasons I left my country,” Hamzeh said.
Hamzeh said two artists backed out at the last moment so they covered their photos. She said that sends a message of its own.
“I think it’s going to show how much the fear can change the people’s interactions. They decided to self censor themselves, and I think that’s how authority can deeply plant fear in people’s minds,” she said.
Carol Hahn, associate dean of liberal arts and social sciences at Heartland Community College, said the exhibit was eye-opening, especially as a woman herself.
“The reflection of what these women are dealing with kind of helped me think about where I am and where we come from,” she said.
Hahn hopes students make that association, too.
“So when students come in, it shows them what these women’s experiences are, but then they can also make connections between those women’s ideas and their own ideas,” she said.
Hamzeh said she wants to bring attention to the violence and human rights abuses against women in Iran. She said some people are familiar with the Iranian government, but not the Iranian people.
“I want more people to know about our situation. My hope is with enough conversation in the future, the laws will change,” she said.
A reception will take place on Monday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Joe McCauley Gallery.
The gallery is located in room 2507 at the Instructional Commons Building (ICB) on HCC’s Normal campus.
The exhibit goes through March 4.