Power of the Word III


Women: Navigating Presence and Absence

A group of women wandered the Islamic East Gallery of Museum to answer a question: Where are women in the gallery and in which ways do they exist here? Later they researched objects, recovering and reimagining their life stories to prepare new narratives for a small exhibition. Here, we share their process in a podcast accompanied by a gallery of objects, below.


See exhibition

Power of the Word

These women are part of Power of the Word, a participatory curatorial project involving Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Portuguese speakers who live in Lisbon and join curatorial and educational staff and guest researchers to study the Middle East Collection.

This project seeks to reimagine the museum by bringing fresh perspectives to its ‘Islamic’ objects through vibrant, contemporary interpretations which affirm intangible culture. Each project leads to an installation in the gallery, but every journey is unique, intentionally experimenting and pushing boundaries with different methods of participation, collaboration, investigation and display.

The power of storytelling

This time Power of the Word is a space of reflection and encounter with the life stories of women who inhabit objects in the Collection, originating from Egypt to India and from the twelfth century to today.




In this podcast, we reflect upon the following questions:

Can we look at the objects in the gallery as storytelling devices? Can we re-imagine them as artistic-life-stories of the women who created them or had a role in their existence? How much can they tell us about our own lives?

We begin with our first visit to the Gallery in search of women and end with our latest workshop joining personal objects and narratives with museum objects. Our conversation is in English as this is the lingua franca of the group.

One Object, Multiple Voices

In this gallery of 24 images, you can follow our stories as we ‘recover and (re)imagine’ eight objects from the Collection. Each object speaks in three voices: firstly, one from the point of view of the woman participant, then from the curators, and finally from the object itself, in imaginary voices to experiment with other options to the conventional academic museum label.

To explore the eight objects and their multiple voices, click on the gallery of images below:

Explore the gallery yourself

Where are women in the Islamic East Gallery? And in which ways do they exist here?

Take a look yourself through the 360º Virtual Tour of the gallery.

The voices of the project

Guest curator: Shahd Wadi, Researcher in Feminist Studies

Coordination (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation): Jessica Hallett (Curator of the Middle East); Diana Pereira and Susana Gomes da Silva (Education Department)

Collaboration: Faranaz Keshavjee, Researcher in Islamic Studies; Joana Simões Piedade, Human rights advocate and educator: Leylâ Gediz, Artist; Merve Pakyürek, Cultural Programmer; Özge Topçu, Artist; Rasha Salah, Curator; Sarah Nagaty, PhD student in Cultural Studies; Solmaz Nazari, Degree in Islamic Law

Special thanks to Clara Serra, Curator of Textiles, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum


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