Art exhibit at Heartland Community College showcases oppressed lives of women in Iran

NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) – Heartland Community College (HCC) presents an exhibition featuring photographs by 50 Iranian artists expressing the lives of women in Iran.

Being a Woman: Reflections by Iranian Artists 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. This is her first collection and the first of its kind at the 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 Masters of Fine Arts at Illinois State University.

Hamzeh said she wanted to shine a light on the sanctioned oppression of women in Iran. She said they are treated like second-class citizens by the government.

“Domestic violence is tolerated up to femicide, and it is not acceptable. 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.

“A lot of women in Iran think it’s like that everywhere,” she said. “You fight to stay alive to survive and you don’t know what’s happening to you until you leave the situation.”

All photos were sent digitally and reproduced locally due to Iranian regime censorship.

“It’s another layer of not being safe. Being a woman is a problem in itself, but being an artist is not highly valued either… This is one of the reasons why I left my country,” Hamzeh said.

Hamzeh said two artists pulled out at the last moment to cover their photos. She said it sent a message of her own.

“I think it’s going to show how fear can change people’s interactions. They decided to censor themselves, and I think that’s how authority can strike deep fear into 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.

“Reflecting on what these women are up against kind of helped me reflect on where I am and where we come from,” she said.

Hahn hopes that the students will also make this association.

“So when the students come in, it shows them what the experiences of these women are, but they can also make connections between these women’s ideas and their own ideas,” she said.

Hamzeh said she wanted to draw attention to violence and human rights abuses against women in Iran. She said that some people know the Iranian government, but not the Iranian people.

“I want more people to know about our situation. Hopefully with enough conversations in the future the laws will change,” she said.

A reception will be held on Monday, February 7 at 4 p.m. at the Joe McCauley Gallery.

The gallery is located in Room 2507 of the Instructional Commons Building (ICB) on the HCC Normal Campus.

The exhibition continues until March 4.

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