Hayv Kahraman

Born 1981, Baghdad, Iraq

Lives and works in Los Angeles, USA

By Isabella Ellaheh Hughes

Hayv Kahraman’s work addresses gendered identity through a range of media including painting, drawing and sculpture. By addressing issues such as gender inequality and sexual violence, Kahraman touches on struggles inherent to the female experience. Inspired by Persian miniatures and Japanese painting, Kahraman’s voluptuous female characters partake in activities that border on the grotesque. Her work challenges cultural norms of women as fetishised objects, as well as perpetuated expectations that women should aspire to become objects of desire.

Violent acts, whether painful beauty rituals or the retelling of the scriptural Sacrifice of the Lamb, are depicted with elegant, zen-like grace in Kahraman’s practice. Flayed Lamb comes from a series focused on the scriptural parable, but here the central figures of Ibrahim and his son are recast as richly-adorned women. The reversal of the roles, as well as the violence intimated in the act of slitting an animal’s—or a girl’s—throat brings attention to violence towards women, who can often function as a sacrificial lamb on a societal altar. Kahraman was born in Baghdad before immigrating to Sweden with her family, and she eventually settled in the US. Kahraman was shortlisted for the 2011 Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum and recent exhibitions include Collective Performance, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Duke University, Durham.