Horror. Dismay. Sadness. Like the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the disturbing footage of protests, turmoil, and violence from Iran in the wake of their “election”. To call them a troubled country right now would be a gross understatement. Even we westerners, looking at our television and internet screens, can’t help but feel the frustration, anger, and outrage of Iranians in their turbulent quest to re-define their future, assert their voice, and speak truth to power.
I’ve often thought that government – and the self-serving, megalomaniacal despots and politicians who generally comprise government – is the worst part of any given nation. For many of us, it is culture – arts, dance, music, poetry – that reveals the authentic soul of a people, not their government. This holds especially true for a people who are oppressed, silenced, manipulated, denied self-expression and the unfettered pursuit of their dreams, for themselves and their children.
I have always had a touch of that “fuck authority” attitude. Government weasels, trigger-happy militia forces, and deranged tyrants can bring out the cynic in anybody. And cynicism is not necessarily a bad thing. But for the people caught in the crossfires of strife – innocent, hopeful dreamers and believers – they deserve better. At this moment in time, Iranians deserve better. Acknowledgement of their extraordinary cultural heritage is a good start.
So I thought I would take this opportunity remind both myself and my readers that Iran has a long, rich cultural history, one that goes back thousands of years, when it was known as Persia, and home to some of the earliest civilizations. I’m sure millions of Iranians would want us to know that they are more than just another violent, unstable country in the Middle East, more than a place of mobs, shootings, bloodshed, and tear gas. I wouldn’t want to be identified by such things either. As always, we turn to the arts to deliver us away. Beauty over brutality. Inspiration over oppression. Humanity over inhumanity.
In Wikipedia, I discovered the work and fascinating biography of Iranian-born artist Bahram Alivandi. Born in 1928, Alivandi received his artistic training in Tehran, where he mastered not only painting, but traditional Persian arts of ceramics, miniatures, and tapestry.
Alivandi’s work is rich in symbolism and oriental motifs, such as the fish, gazelle, and horse, which are traditional motifs of Persian miniatures. He draws influence from Persian culture, depicting characters and stories from legends and epic poetry. He left Iran several years after the Islamic revolution of 1979 to escape the repression and censorisation of all free artistic expression. He has lived and worked in Vienna since 1983.
Here are two images of Alivandi’s work. I absolutely love these! They are both done in ink and veneer on canvas. Look at the beautiful bird in the first one:
Hopes for peace in Iran . . . and hopes for peace on earth . . . .