Shirin Neshat portrays women and man belonging to a humiliated and hurt Islamic civilization, individuals suffering with grace and dignity, looking for redemption and transfiguration. Exiled from many years from her homeland Iran (where the totalitarian regime is perpetrating many crimes against the people) Shirin Neshat is an amazing woman strong as a religious, determined as a politician, fascinating as a sphinx and focused as an artist. For a person exiled from her home and separated from her roots, art cannot only be game, song or abstraction. For an artist having known the terror of the pain, the blood of the suppression and the enigmas of the injustice, art should also be testimony, defence and denunciation.
In Women of Allah series (1993-97) the Islamic woman, believing in the Coran, is explored in every detail. The black or white chador, a rigid and wide veil, frames the elegant feminine face as a liturgical triangle of sinuous drapery, reminding the medieval portraits of the Virgin Mary. The veil is separating private from public, interior from exterior, invisible from visible. The face devoted to revolution, to war (Iran-Iraq) and to martyrdom. The light in the eyes revealing the submission, the grace, the sufferance and the destiny. Here appears a rifle and the barrel of an arm, an instrument of battle, to defend or aggress, and to kill. The barrel of the gun corrodes, lacerates and injures the beauty and the light of the visage, asserting the ancient indissoluble connection between love and dead: Eros and Thanatos. Then poems, novels and declarations of exhausted and torn consciences materialize from the skin, handwrote in ink by the elegant Persian calligraphy. Sometimes the look is pointed to the sky and the hands joined for the prayer. Sometimes the hands are covering the face in a pose of desolation. It appears a colourful flower close to the weapon, confronting in a necessary and impossible dialogue. The white and the black, the fragility and the force, the freedom and the martyrdom, the pace and the violence confronting themselves in a static and vertiginous dance. The austere and rigid black, dialoguing with the grace of the hands that are not collecting fruits but bullets; or contrasting to the candid sensuality of a child nude. A text decorating the sole of the feet of a corpse: it is the sophisticated Farsi calligraphy, lyric and melodious, looking for a dialog with the folly of the evil.