DENA, Rafsanjan, Iran, 2001

Sitting: Farah Ossouli, Mitra Kavian, Raana Farnoud, Shahrzad Ossouli
Standing: Sharareh Zandian, Yekta Mortazavi (Kavir gallery owner, Rafsanjan), Bahar Behbahani


Sharjah Art Foundation presents an exhibition of works by DENA, a group of Iranian women artists who came together after the Iranian Revolution when the notion of a female art collective was neither encouraged nor recognised. The first regional exhibition of the group’s work in over a decade focuses on the sociological and historical dimension of DENA by piecing together various archival materials such as posters, catalogues, photographs and films.

Formed in 2001 as a way to introduce Iranian women artists to the local and international art scene, DENA borrows its name from a mountain range in Iran and also refers to a female name in Persian—an allusion to nature, femininity and the Iranian identity, all integral aspects of the group’s work. Spanning three generations and reflecting various styles and backgrounds, DENA’s work embodies the diversity of independent voices and outlooks on contemporary Iran.

The group consists of Bahar Behbahani, Aria Shokouhi Eghbal, Raana Farnoud, Shahla Habibi, Mitra Kavian, Nasrin Khosravi, Farideh Lashai, Masoumeh Mozaffari, Farah Ossouli, Shahrzad Ossouli, Maryam Shirinlou, Gizella Varga Sinai and Sharareh Zandian.

The DENA artists are no longer active as a collective, and a few members of the group now reside outside Iran. However, the group remains an integral part of art community conversations and has also become the subject of doctoral dissertations and university case studies. The exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation provides an opportunity not only to revisit the shared past of the DENA artists, whether they continued or interrupted their studio work, but also to examine their individual contemporary practices.