Entitled “Habibi (my love, editor’s note), the revolutions of love”, this exhibition starting Tuesday at the Institute of the Arab World (IMA) does not want to be a “militant manifesto”.

It intends “to make visible the obvious and what has remained invisible for too long”: the cultural ferment of the Arab world on these questions, assures its president Jack Lang to AFP.

In total, 23 artists (painters, photographers, visual artists, illustrators…) from the Maghreb, Mashreq, Iran and Afghanistan but also from the diaspora – are exhibited.

“The idea is to present to the public this abundance around these themes and the fact that we are on a young generation who seizes on these subjects and who makes them the primary source of their creations”, explains to the AFP Elodie Bouffard, curator of the exhibition.

A proliferation that we find in the 7th art with the films “Le bleu du caftan” on homosexuality in Morocco or “Joyland”, a Pakistani film worn by a transgender actress. Both were presented at the last Cannes Film Festival.

Literature is not to be outdone, as evidenced by the book “The youngest” by the French writer Fatima Daas, on her refusal to choose between her homosexuality and her Muslim faith, which had been an event of the literary season there is two years.

The fact remains that if these questions cross the Arab world, they remain extremely taboo and homosexuality is still largely repressed, sometimes with the death penalty as in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

In June, the Pixar animated film, “Buzz Lightyear”, failed to obtain a license to be broadcast in a dozen countries or entities in the Middle East and Asia, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, due to a scene showing a furtive kiss between two women.

– “Stakeholder” –

“We are aware that this exhibition is something quite unique both internationally and regionally,” said Khalid Abdel Hadi, co-curator of the exhibition, to AFP.

This Jordanian founded in 2007 the webzine “My.Kali” dedicated to making the voices of the queer community of the Arab world heard.

One of the common threads of the exhibition is to document, through the intimate, the stories of exile and the experiences of the diaspora.

Like the black and white photographic series by the Sudanese Salih Basheer which reconstructs Essam’s journey, having left Sudan for Egypt before finding refuge in Sweden.

Or the pictures of Fadi Elias who draws the portrait of Syrian refugees in Germany. Playing on the vagueness, his portraits underline by their ambiguity the difficulty of publicly assuming one’s sexual identity.

In addition to stories about exile, there is the need to document a memory.

This meticulous work is notably carried out by the Lebanese photographer Mohamad Abdouni who, from the 1990s, recorded the stories and lives of trans women.

“Collecting, archiving is also saying that we are there, that we exist and showing that we are part of society,” Tunisian Aïcha Snoussi told AFP.

In “Sépulture aux noyé e s”, the artist imagines a burial place belonging to a queer civilization whose remains would have been swallowed up by the Mediterranean.

The question of bodies is also omnipresent. It is partly worn by the Iranian artist, exiled in France, Alireza Shojaian.

In his paintings, men are placed in lascivious and vulnerable poses, at odds with the usual codes of virility. All on an orientalist composition using Persian miniatures.