Arab Muslim women from Minnesota are portrayed in an exhibition inspired by Islamic art

Dearborn, Mich. (May 16, 2018) – Within an approximately 8’x10’ prayer niche lies a directional compass guiding spoken prayers for any Muslim who retreats into it. In Arabic, this personal niche is called a mihrab, and like mosque architecture, no two mihrabs are alike. Many are lavishly decorated and some are not; but all are personal.

Here, Saudi American cardiologist-turned-artist Hend Al-Mansour recasts the mihrab as a framework. Mihrab: Portraits of Arab Muslim Women by Hend Al-Mansour is a temporary exhibition featuring installation portraits of three Arab Muslim women from Minnesota and their relationship with Islam. This exhibition opened in the Main Floor Gallery of the Arab American National Museum (AANM) onMay 12, 2018; it runs through Sept. 30, 2018. The exhibition is free with Museum admission.

Like traditional portraiture, each structure was carefully crafted to reflect the subject. Favorite clothes, colors and objects from the subject may be incorporated in subtle or amusing ways. These elements bring shape to the personalities of the women represented. Only the personalized rugs are oriented towards Mecca. Visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes and enter the installations to fully experience the work and the women’s stories.

“Al-Mansour is creating not only a portrait, but an environment for the viewer to appreciate,” says AANM’s Curator of Exhibits Elizbeth Barret Sullivan. “This is one of the few times where the subject of the art is specifically related to Islam. Al-Mansour’s story and those of her portrait subjects are part of the Arab American story.”

Hend Al-Mansour was born in Saudi Arabia and as a child she carved large female figures into sand. She studied and practiced medicine in Cairo, Egypt where she gained a reputation among her colleagues for the images she drew in the doctor’s rooms. She made her way to the United States where she completed a master’s degree in art.

In the Mihrab exhibition, Al-Mansour’s art reflects the female culture of her hometown. “Islamic art usually carries the mark of being historical. Gorgeous but bygone,” says Al-Mansour. “It is important to me as an Arab American to believe that my ancestor artists have left me a precious heritage to build on and grow and show as a valid, meaningful art that descends through time.”

Al-Mansour was awarded the Jerome Fellowship of Printmaking and the Juror’s Award of the Contemporary Islamic Art Exhibition (Saudi Arabia.) She was listed among the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women for three years in the online magazine Arabian Business. She is a co-founder of the group Arab Artists in the Twin Cities and has shown her work in regional, national and international exhibitions. Al-Mansour was a member of the Arab American Cultural Institute in Minnesota where she worked to promote the understanding and expression of Arab culture in the West.


The Arab American National Museum (AANM) documents, preserves and presents Arab American history, culture and contributions.

AANM is an institution of Dearborn, Mich.-based human-services agency ACCESS, the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the U.S. AANM is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums; an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution; and a founding member of the Immigration and Civil Rights Network of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

The Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI, 48126. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday; Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $8 for adults; $4 for students, seniors and children 6-12; ages 5 and under and Museum Members, free.

Visit www.arabamericanmuseum.org or call 313.582.2266 for further information.

Kim Silarski | Communications Manager | Arab American National Museum

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