Diagram of the Heart

Presented by Open Society Documentary Photography Project

Curated by Siobhan Riordan

Featuring Glenna Gordon

Rabi Tale is one of several dozen popular romance novelists living in the northern city of Kano, Nigeria’s second biggest city, and the city with the largest Muslim population in the country.

Tale is one of a small but significant group of women in Northern Nigeria writing books called Littattafan soyayya, which in the Hausa language translates as “love literature.” These stories are somewhere in between morality tales and romance novels. Many of the novels are about escape, and fantasies of a better life, as well as advice for how to live as a good Muslim and a good wife. They’re read by women and girls in Northern Nigeria and across the Sahel. The stories of kidnapped schoolgirls and acts of terrorism at the hands of Islamist group Boko Haram might be the only stories that people around the world know about Northern Nigeria, but they’re certainly not the only stories about Hausa women.

Glenna Gordon is a documentary photographer and photojournalist working in Africa and elsewhere. She’s crashed dozens of Nigerian weddings, sought out and photographed traces of the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, met many of the released Western hostages kidnapped by ISIS and Al Qaeda, and learned about Muslim women who write romance novels in the Sahel, just south of the Sahara Desert.

Gordon’s work has received recognition through World Press Photo, the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards grand prize, the PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris first prize in portraiture, and the PDN Photo Annual competition. Her work has also been awarded by American Photo, Communication Arts, and Magenta Flash Forward.

Gordon has been commissioned by Le Monde, the New York Times, Time magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Her images have been included in group shows in galleries, projections, containers, and museums in London, New York, Nigeria, and Washington, D.C. Gordon is an adjunct professor at the Milano School of International Affairs at The New School in New York.


Basic CMYK This exhibition is supported by the Open Society Documentary Photography Project. Through grants and exhibitions, we seek to advance socially engaged photography and its potential to drive change. We value ambitious work that reflects an ongoing commitment to depth and nuance, a plurality of perspectives and approaches, and photographers who use their work to strategically trigger critical thought, dialogue, and action.

Moving Walls is our exhibition series that features photography on human rights and social justice issues. We provide a platform for global practitioners who are expanding the visual language of documentary photography in compelling ways.

Images from Diagram of the Heart, the body of work on display in this container, will be featured in the Moving Walls 23 exhibition which opens to the public at Open Society Foundations-New York on October 22, 2015.