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Robert Rauschenberg Foundation donates Iranian photographer's work to universities

Gift of Shirin Neshat's prints about the Arab Spring is meant to encourage discussions on race, religion and politics

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has donated two limited edition prints by the Iranian photographer Shirin Neshat to 33 leading academic institutions worldwide, with the intention of encouraging dialogues on race, religion and politics.

Ghada (2013) is a portrait of a woman wearing a black hijab and Sayed (2013) depicts an elderly man; both belong to a series by the photographer called Our House is On Fire, which explores Egypt after the Arab Spring.

"Due to the recent events in Europe and the Middle East, we believe that it is more important than ever to engage in cross-cultural discussions," Christy MacLear, the executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, said in a statement.

The selected colleges and universities underwent a competitive process where each outlined how the prints would be incorporated into the students’ curriculum and campus-wide events.

Among the chosen ones, Columbia University in New York proposed displaying the prints in its law department to use as case studies for human rights issues; the American University of Beirut plans to incorporate the prints into lessons dealing with the role of art in activism and religious identity, specifically in relation to Middle Eastern and Islamic studies; and the University of Pennsylvania plans to host a panel discussing Christianity, Islam and Judaism using Neshat’s portraits and other prints.