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Laura Boushnak - I Read I Write



From Tunisia through Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Yemen, “I Read, I Write:  The Photographs of Laura Boushnak” explores the relationship between female literacy, happiness and development in the Arab world.             


Opening June 19 at the National University of Singapore’s  Middle East Institute, “I Read, I Write” draws together a selection of nearly five years of artist Laura Boushnak’s contemporary portrait photography, and demonstrates her on-going interest in Arab women’s place in society.



Nourished by her relationship with her environment, (Boushnak is a Palestinian raised in Kuwait and educated in Lebanon), Boushnak’s stunning photography reflects the beauty and depth she finds in Arab women who beat the odds to become literate.

Although her passion for the subject is evident, her pictures do not pass judgment, nor do they attempt to persuade.

The photographer acts as an invested observer, taking a compassionate view of her subjects by superimposing the writing of women on their portraits, and letting them speak to us. 



Boushnak’s art speaks to us in multiple layers, each building on the other to provide additional depth, perspectives and points of views.

Portraits of women committed to becoming literate, each with a poignant story of how she came to read and write, are initially manipulated by superimposing written sentences in the subject’s own hand.

The handwriting brings a new dimension, allowing the subject to comment on her experiences, and further drawing us into her mind. In certain cases, photographs are then combined into installations to amplify and broaden meanings and themes. 

Equally meaningful, other photographs are presented as stand-alone portraits when the artist either wants to emphasize the subject’s story, or wants the portrait to speak to up itself. 



Through an intelligent use of context and environment, Boushnak’s photographs and installations are sophisticated readings of major barriers standing between women and literacy.  

Some highlight poverty, others cultural constraints, minimal public spending on education and outdated teaching methods that women and girls face in accessing education. 

Her work reminds us of Arab women’s resilience in the face of fundamental challenges to their human rights, and of their ability to transcend their sometimes debilitating social environment. 

Boushnak’s commentary travels seamlessly to South East Asia as well:  While Arab countries exhibit alarming illiteracy rates among women and girls, in Indonesia for example, according to UNESCO, some 18% of women aged 15 or older are illiterate.



Boushnak uses a digital 35 mm SLR camera, typically with a tripod. Critical to her approach to her subjects is not to intimidate them with a lot of equipment and to keep a low profile in a region where there might be some fear of cameras. 

This suits Boushnak’s considerate approach to her subject. 

Boushnak never uses artificial light and counts on natural light as a value in itself in her “environmental portraits”.  She uses no manipulation, filtering or resolution changes. 

Instead, she shoots raw image files before precise adjustments are made through colour and image-processing.

Boushnak’s photographs are digital archival prints on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White fine art paper.



“I read, I write” is Boushnak’s first solo exhibition in Asia and features more than 40 prints. 

This exhibition is organized by Sana Gallery and curated by Assaad W. Razzouk. 

The exhibition debuts on 19 June 2013 at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. 



"In terms of basic indicators, the Arab region has one of the highest rates of female illiteracy (as much as one half, compared to only one third among males). It also displays one of the lowest rates of enrolment at the various levels of education.” 



      - Source:  The Arab Human Development Report 2005, UNDP

“Through my on-going project, which so far took me to five Arab countries –Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen and Tunisia – I want to show the importance of literacy in enriching women’s lives, while examining the major barriers women and girls face in accessing education, for example poverty, cultural constraints, minimal public spending on education, and outdated teaching methods.”

- Laura Boushnak

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