Upcoming Event: Invisible Eve at Tulsa’s 108 Contemporary

invisible-eveOn Friday, November 1st, Tulsa’s 108 Contemporary, located at 108 East Brady Street, will premiere an exhibition of portraits by Yousef Khanfar from his book “Invisible Eve: Incarcerated Women of Oklahoma”. An opening reception for the event will take place Friday from 6-9 pm.

Yousef Khanfar is an international award-winning writer and photographer. In  Invisible Eve, he turns his lens on incarcerated Oklahoma women, presenting the images and words of those too often cast away and forgotten, in an effort to reach empathy and understanding. Here is Yousef’s artist statement for the project, which we reprint with permission:

The faces and voices I have captured from the penitentiaries for my project, Invisible Eve, were a challenge indeed; perhaps my lenses have never labored so much on a subject more utterly restricted.

Since United States has the highest incarceration of women per capita in the world, I decided to take on this project, not to condemn, but to serve as bridges of understanding.  

Within the prison system’s harsh reality, and beneath the overarching legality, inmates build their own governments. They compete among themselves with jealousies and forces, where they hold trials, pass judgments, corrupt the young, and live by the code. They are cast away in barren cells, banished to their own Serengeti, where starvation meets brutality, where crushing bones is the norm, and laughter of the hyena reverberates in every heart.

invisible_eve2While creating Invisible Eve, I came to the understanding that I might not be able to help the women inside prison, but their images and messages might help the women outside prison. After taking their portrait, I asked each woman to write a few words of wisdom for the next generation. Their messages are insightful, some powerful and some painful. My aspiration is that people can find wisdom within their words, where the fault of one being might be the salvation of another.

Then I witnessed something magical. For a while the females forgot about their unfortunate situation. They entered into a realm, where they love to save souls, than love to be saved. By giving them a voice, they felt good about themselves. They transcended their own tragedy. They felt they are part of the solution than part of the problem.

All the ladies I photographed were united by misfortune of circumstances and non-violent crimes. I refused to see them as inmates and I only saw them as human beings. I refused to digitally manipulate their images. The women were asked to remain natural and not wear make-up. I used only natural light in the shadows. I photographed most of them against a white, seamless paper, eliminating all distractions in the background. I wanted them to leap out of whiteness and greet viewers with their eyes. Some were photographed with their children who, with their guardians, pay the ultimate price. Others were photographed between two walls, a metaphor of being trapped.

While listening to the stories of these women in prison, it seems to me they were once young budding flowers about to blossom, but somehow they were swept away by gales of temptation, washed away by currents of crime, and carried down into an artificial ocean, where the glamorous life is religion, material things are worshiped, drugs are available everywhere, violence is endorsed on every screen, crime is embroidered with romance, and the noble flesh of Eve is offered for sale. And one must ask: Whom do you blame, these souls or society?

My great hope is, that we as a nation and people can stand proud one day and say, we are number one in respecting women and lead the world. This is the hope of my soul, for the living and the unborn, and when we reach that summit, I shall weep no more.

The exhibit will run until December 22nd at 108 Contemporary. A portion of the proceeds from the book will benefit Women  in Recovery, a program that provides alternatives to incarceration to non-violent female offenders facing significant prison time in Tulsa County. The exhibit was previously on display at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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