Their courage triggered Ebtekar to create a unique set of photographic works depicting Iranian women as warriors.

honouring women

"This work is about celebrating and honouring women. It elevates them almost to the level of superheroes," Ebtekar said.

Ebtekar's new series, whose title ‘1388' refers to medieval times in the Gregorian calendar and the present date in the Persian calendar, pays homage to women of the past and present.

Some women wear medieval chain mail, helmets or armour (as Iranian women did in ancient battles), while others wear contemporary hijabs or tank tops.

On top of the photographs, Ebtekar has painted helmets, swords and other weapons using ink and acrylics. "I wanted to mark up the photographs and do something unusual," Ebtekar said. "I wanted to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary."

Besides creating an unusual effect, the illustrations — combined with the photography — challenge perceptions of fantasy and reality. And in works where weapons are painted on the hands of modern women, they blur the lines between the past and the present.

On yet another level, Ebtekar uses illustrations to play with the concept of history and mythology by incorporating symbolic objects from Persian epics — such as a helmet worn by Persian hero Rostam — into his work.

Perhaps the most obvious dynamic is that of femininity and strength. The image of women in elegant hijabs and bright clothes holding swords suggests that women can be simultaneously feminine and powerful.

Ebtekar said his work is open to interpretation, but he hopes people will see it as a vision for the future. "I think my work is informed by the past, but it's also very much about now and the future."

The ‘1388' series will be on display at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair, which starts today and runs until Sunday. The collection was recently displayed at The Third Line gallery in Al Quoz.

Sanam Islam is a Dubai-based