In line with lockdown restrictions Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is now closed.

A portrait of girls’ education activist, Malala Yousafzai, by Iranian-born artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, is on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. It has never been on public display before.

The striking image of Malala seated at a school desk is part of the COMING HOME initiative, which sees portraits from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection travel to places across the UK they are closely associated with. The portrait was commissioned with support from Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

Born in Mingora, Pakistan in 1997, Malala Yousafzai first came to prominence in 2009 after writing about her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat Valley, and the ban on girls’ education. In October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head in an attack by a Taliban gunman on her school bus. She recovered in Birmingham where she chose to remain with her family.

The work is one of a pair of portraits of Yousafzai by Neshat, commissioned for the National Portrait Gallery Collection. Onto the image Neshat has hand inscribed in calligraphy a poem, MALALA II: (Malala Yousafzai), by the Pushto poet Rahman Shah Sayel from Peshawar, written in 2011 when Malala had already become a well-known activist for education.

The portrait will be accompanied by two works from Birmingham’s collection on related themes of home and identity by artists connected to the city - In the House of My Father by Donald Rodney and Not Your Fantasy I by Farwa Moledina.

Image credit: Malala Yousafzai by Shirin Neshat, 2018 © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Visiting the Museum and Art Gallery

Online advanced booking is required to visit the museum and art gallery. Please note, online booking is currently closed.

Entry is free however we ask that you consider making a donation if possible, to help support us during this very challenging time.

COMING HOME has been made possible by the National Portrait Gallery, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, generous contributions from The Thompson Family Charitable Trust and funds raised at the Gallery’s Portrait Gala in 2017.

Visit to find out more about COMING HOME


COMING HOME by the National Portrait Gallery