Living in the United States since the age of seventeen, Shirin Neshat rediscovered Iran after years of exile due to the 1979 revolution. The dramatic religious, political and social changes that her country underwent struck her so forcefully that she decided to devote her entire art to the exploration of the Middle-East society.
The present photograph is from an early series titled 'Women of Allah', in which Neshat depicts Islamic women wearing shadors and tattooed insciptions of decorative patterns, devotional prayers or poems in Farsi. Boldly exhibiting the traces and signs of their culture, the 'Women of Allah' have ambiguous attitudes, either proudly gazing at us or hiding their faces shamefully and mysteriously behind hands or veils. In this beautiful, visually striking image, the woman conceals her face behind a rifle. Although at first glance quite aggressive, the gun is held between the sitter's hands in a position of prayer, thus overriding any violence or hostility. The masculine feeling of the rifle is disrupted by the feminine aspect of the woman's Islamic patterns decorating her hands and arms. Caught between power and fragility, mysterious concealment and revelation of a seductive appeal, Neshat's women question our views of Islamic culture by revealing the contradictions of a complex society.