‘I AM’ comes to Nashville


Navin Ahire

After making the rounds in Jordan, London and Washington, D.C., the I AM exhibition has arrived at Cohen Memorial Hall. The exhibition features the works of 31 female artists from Middle Eastern countries, and is free and open to the public until Oct. 10.

The exhibit was organized by CARAVAN, a nonprofit peacebuilding organization which aims to bring people together through art. CARAVAN has organized over ten art exhibitions thus far including the Kahlil Gibran and the Key exhibitions, and their influence has not gone unnoticed; I AM was sponsored by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, and the exhibit caught the attention of Chancellor Zeppos.

I AM touches the chancellor’s interest in mitigating divides between us,” said Joseph Mella, Director of the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery. “We live in a really divisive moment right now. This exhibit broadens students’ awareness of the world around them.”

These works of art celebrate the diverse and rich contributions of women in the Middle East. I AM explores themes such as female empowerment, motherhood and identity. According to the exhibit catalog, artist Azadeh Ghotbi says her work “I AM…Inspired,” which consists of a complex arrangement of paper, photographs, cardboard and mirrors, honors the “extraordinary drive, strength, resilience and passion of female compatriots.”

I AM also serves to challenge people’s perceptions of women in the Middle East, contradicting stereotypes and redefining what it means to practice Islam as a woman.

“Muslim women are mistakenly seen as downtrodden, veil-covered, oppressed,” Mella said. “The art tells a different story: one of hope, of optimism.”

The phrase “I AM” itself contains significance. According to the exhibit catalog, the phrase “I AM” is an essential part of the Abrahamic faiths, as it represents divine self-identification.

For more information about I AM and CARAVAN, visit www.oncaravan.org.