Yasmine Nasser Diaz, Hanna bint (daughter of) Ghamar, 2018, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by JoAnn Busuttil, © Yasmine Diaz, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

LACMA Favorites: Yasmine Nasser Diaz’s Hanna bint (daughter of) Ghamar

April 11, 2024
Sandra Williams, Assistant Curator, Art of the Middle East

For Arab American Heritage Month in April, LACMA is celebrating Arab heritage, history, and contributions to art and culture with works from our collection.

Yemeni-American multi-media artist Yasmine Nasser Diaz’s work ranges from thoughtful reflections on adolescence and Arab American identity to powerful performances and installations that address major currents in global feminist movements. Born and raised in Chicago to Yemeni parents, Nasser Diaz’s work is frequently autobiographical, such as nostalgic meditations on childhood and 90s pop culture like MTV and the music of Salt-N-Peppa. At other times, she more critically examines her past, including her eventual departure from her family and subsequent identity change to avoid a forced marriage and potential honor violence.

Hanna bint (daughter of) Ghamar in LACMA’s collection belongs to a broader series called Exit Strategies that addresses Nasser Diaz’s departure from home and was first exhibited in 2018 at the Feminist Center for Creative Work (formerly the Women’s Center for Creative Work) in Los Angeles, which is where I first met her and saw this compelling piece. The work hones in on the Arab convention of patronymic naming in which a child’s name is tied to his or her father’s first name through the connectors bint (“daughter of”) and ibn (“son of”), not unlike the English practice of Johnson (“John’s son”) or Fitzwilliam (“son of William”). Nasser Diaz rejects this tradition by instead emblazoning her birth name, Hanna, in pink neon and attaching it to her mother’s name, Ghamar, thus shedding figurative and literal light on her matrilineal bonds. The reversal is an act of recuperation and resistance that boldly critiques the suppression of female identity and draws attention to lineages of women in relation to one another rather than to men. While rooted in her specific identity and that of her mother’s, Hanna bint (daughter of) Ghamar carries a powerful reminder that what’s in a name can truly matter.