Divas: an Exhibition Celebrating Arab Female Artists

Wereldmuseum, Amsterdam. Through March 3rd, 2024

The exhibition Divas celebrates the lives and careers of the remarkable female artists who left an indelible mark on the Arab music and film industry from the 1920s to the 1970s. These extraordinary women not only excelled in their respective art forms but also played a crucial role in paving the way for women in media, music, dance, song, and film. 

Divas offers a unique insight into the personal lives of these artists, showcasing their portraits as a reflection of the political and social history of the Arab world. These divas were not only exceptional performers but influential historical figures who used music and film to connect Arabic speakers worldwide. The exhibition tells the story of the rise of women in politics and culture. 

Left: Fairuz poster for 'The Guardian's Daughter' (1963) Abboudi Bou Jaoude Vintage Poster Collection
Right: photo of Beelden Warda from Collection Discothèque de Radio France

The first stage of the exhibition highlights Cairo in the 1920s, marking the rise of women in politics and culture, fighting for equal rights and against British rule. The second section highlights four renowned singers who gained millions of fans: Umm Kulthum, Asmahan, Warda, and Fayrouz. They represented national unity or expressed the desire for cultural unity in the Arab world. The third section showcases female performers who excelled in both acting and singing. Stars like Tahiyya Carioca, Samia Gamal, and Laila Mourad captivated audiences in numerous films and musicals. The final rooms explore the enduring popularity of these divas, evident in the works of the contemporary artists who they have inspired.