top of page

The Theme Of Feminism In The Istanbul Biennial

The Istanbul Biennial is the name of a big art event in which artists from all over the world, with all kinds of backgrounds, display their artwork. The Biennial is organized by The İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) every two years and with the first one being organized in 1987, it has been organized 16 times already. The 17th biennial was planned to be organized in 2021 however, because of the pandemic, it was postponed to 2022. In this year’s biennial, many themes were reflected in artworks including war, feminism, and the history of İstanbul. Today, we are going to be looking at the theme of feminism and how it was showcased. With videos, photos, paintings, old journal passages of young girls, and short stories all displaying the history of feminism in different countries, the theme of feminism was showcased in different ways. The history of feminism in Turkey and Nepal was mostly displayed. Let’s take a look at the history of feminism in Turkey and Nepal and how artists in the Bienal chose to display them.

This photo shows ‘The Women’s Work Archive’ in the Pera museum as part of the İstanbul Biennial. İt was made by the team of ‘Çatlak Zemin’, which is a group of feminists that come together to post articles and photos on their website to inform people about the theme of feminism. In this archive, they showed pictures and videos of some feminist protests in Turkey. There are also images of groups of feminists coming together and having meetings alongside some quotes from important women writers and artists about the theme of feminism.

'Right from its beginnings….. feminism defined

itself... as a movement which unceasingly shaped and reshaped its

elf as it faced brand new obstacles; it never aspired to an apriori representation relating to an ideal society. The path of feminism is fortified through loyalty to unchanging larger principles as well as the ability to question the very things we deem as achievements. Feminism is a communal course of action rather than a construct observing a particular model. It is a course of action reliant on continuous dialogue that is capable of questioning the veracity of certain assumptions that seem apparent at face value.

Gülnur Acar Savran, 2018. Cited by Gulnur

Acar Savran in 'For SiRiN., Catlak

A closer look into the Women’s Work Archive.

The theme and history of feminism in Nepal were showcased in a photo gallery called ‘The Feminist Memory Project - Nepal Picture Library’. The social and cultural aspects of feminism in Nepal are being brought to attention through these photos. This collection is a part of an archived campaign that Nepal Picture Library (NPL) has been working on since 2018. The project team met over a hundred different people who have shaped the understanding of feminism in Nepal. It displays moments from the past when women faced political issues, gained the right to education, shared their points of view, and broke social norms by traveling across the globe.

The gallery was divided into six parts, each displaying photos of different aspects of women’s accomplishments. The first part, The women of the people, talks about the history of how Nepal’s political parties were dominated by men and how women found new positions in politics and in society. The words of Women, the second part focuses on how women struggled to voice their opinions through journals and magazines and talk about how in the 1950s they managed to overcome obstacles to be able to write and express themselves. Reading Under The Candlelight shines a light on the history of how women overcome the social norms that suggested that girls having an education were unnecessary. This part shows photos of women and their stories that have contributed to the breaking of social norms. A room of one's own, tells the story of girls who, at the time, couldn't really interact with the outside world, and who only had a room of their own, that wasn't always quiet, to think and have time to themselves. The part questions the space of women that they have to themselves (in their house literally and in society in general). Out In the world shows photos and stories of women who have traveled to express their freedom. Women for women aims to show organizations created and led by women to ensure the safety of women and to put an end to major issues like trafficking and violence.

Here is a picture of Prativa Subedi when she sees the ocean for the first time in Japan.
Yagya Gale in Darjeeling. She recalls how much constraint women faced.

Women have faced a lot of struggles throughout history in most countries around the world. In the 17th İstanbul biennial, Çatlak Zemin and Nepal Picture Library have displayed the struggles of women and how they overcame them through videos, pictures and quotes, making us understand not only the concept of feminism, but also the power of women.

Work Cited:

İstanbul Kültür Sanat Vakfı İstanbul Kültür Müzik, Feminist Memory Project – Nepal Picture Library

Accessed: 20 September, 2022.

Istanbul Biennial, Wikipedia

Accessed: 20 September, 2022.

İstanbul Kültür Sanat Vakfı İstanbul Kültür Müzik, History

Accessed: 21 September, 2022.

Istanbul Biennial to Explore the City Neighborhoods in the 2022 Edition, Widewalls

Accessed: 22 September, 2022.

Çatlak Zemin 17. İstanbul Bienali'nde! Çatlak Zemin

Accessed: 22 September, 2022.

Çatlak Zemin, FeministBellek

Accessed: 23 September, 2022.

Exhibition: The Public Life of Women, A Feminist Memory Project, FLA Network

Accessed: 23 September, 2022.



bottom of page