Sunday, 27 July 2014

An Iranian artist has just one day to save her artwork from being destroyed by Canadian customs

Iranian artist and Canadian permanent resident Sadaf Foroughi is fighting to get her artwork back from Canadian customs before it is destroyed

The design of Sadaf Foroughi's Shahre Farang, a traditional Iranian peep box. Picture courtesy of Sadaf Foroughi and CBC Radio.
by CBC Radio

Iranian artist and Canadian permanent resident, Sadaf Foroughi, has spent the last two years trying to build an authentic shahre farang, essentially a traditional Iranian peep box. It's part of a project funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. After Ms Foroughi went to Iran to help build the box, that's when things got complicated.

On her arrival back in Montreal, Canadian customs held the artwork. Officers claimed it contravenes Canada's trade sanctions with Iran. And now the piece is slated to be destroyed in a matter of days.

Shahre farangs are traditionally made of thin tin, are delicate objects and date back centuries. According to Ms Foroughi the peep box was used to show pictures to children in Iran and give people a glimpse around the world -- places average Iranians would likely never visit. Ms Foroughi's installation is a modern interpretation of the shahre farang where she shows videos instead of photographs.

Ms Foroughi tells guest host Helen Mann, she doesn't understand why her work violates Canada's so-called "Special Economic Measures Regulations for Iran," because she says her piece has no commercial value.

Ms Fourghi tells Helen she told the customs agent in Montreal, "I'm an artist and I had the grant of Canada Council for the Arts and they only support independent and personal projects." But according to Ms Foroughi, the official shouted at her.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Tehran Bazaar

Untitled, 2009 (Rostam II Series), by Siamak Filizadeh. Courtesy of Aaran Gallery.
by Joobin Bekhrad, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs

In discourses revolving around Iran’s tumultuous history, particularly that of the last thousand years, a comparison has often been made between Iranian culture and the mythical phoenix. Following the decay and decline of the Sassanian Empire—heir to the legacy of the Achaemenids and Parthians, whose influence not only reached the far-flung corners of the then-known world politically, but culturally as well—Iran was plunged into a dark era that would radically alter the course of its culture, history, and identity for centuries to come. The arrival of the Umayyads and Abbasids saw not only the eradication of Zoroastrianism, the indigenous Iranian religion dominant at the time, but also the widespread suppression of the Persian language and Iranian culture, which culminated in what is now referred to as the dreaded “two centuries of silence.” And, just when the newly humbled Iranians—who had only a short while back given the Romans a run for their money—thought they had seen the worst, the Mongols, following the course of their Seljuk brethren who had recently swept through Iran and laid the foundations for modern-day Turkey, razed the land of the noble to the ground, laying once-proud Persia to waste.

Of many of the countless peoples and places Herodotus documented in his colossal Histories, only names and vestiges remain. Despite having been in the epicenter of a region continuously subject to invasion, bloodshed, intercultural tensions, and religious strife (to name a few malaises), Iranian culture has always managed, somehow or other, not only to survive, but to proudly flourish, despite various changes in its outward appearance and form. From the ashes of the remnants of the House of Sassan, and from the depths of the two centuries of silence emerged the voices of Rudaki, the first major poet to write in modern-day Persian (i.e., the Dari variant), and Ferdowsi, who, in a labor of love composed the triumphant Shahnameh, Iran’s national epic celebrating pre-Islamic Iranian mythology and lore. Later, though Iran found itself yet again under foreign occupation—this time by Turco-Mongol dynasties from the East—Iranian art and architecture flourished and adapted itself to its new surroundings. Iran later enjoyed a lavish renaissance at the hands of the first indigenous rulers of Iran since the Sassanians, the Safavids. Despite their religious zealotry and fervent promotion of Shi’ism (by sometimes questionable means), they ushered in a golden age of Iranian art and culture still looked upon with reverence and longing today by Iranians and non-Iranians alike.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

An Iranian dissident returns home

Popular filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof has returned to Tehran from exile. In an exclusive interview, he explains why.
A scene from "The White Meadows", 2009, Dir. Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran. Courtesy The Global Film Initiative Blog
by , Al Jazeera America

Friends and family warned Mohammad Rasoulof not to return to Tehran. The award-winning director still had a prison sentence looming over his head after being arrested during a shoot in 2010, charged with threatening national security and making propaganda against Iran’s Islamic state.

Rasoulof’s friend and collaborator, the renowned director of “White Balloon,” Jafar Panahi, who was arrested at the same time, is still under house arrest. Further, Rasoulof had just released his most uncompromising film to date. “Manuscripts Don’t Burn” — which won the International Federation of Film Critics Award at Cannes and is currently screening at New York’s Museum of Modern Art — is an undisguised criticism of Iran’s feared security services, and Rasoulof’s most overtly political work yet. Still, he ignored the advice and came home.

He arrived in Tehran in September 2013, a month after the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani. The police confiscated his passport, but have otherwise left him alone so far. Rouhani has promised to bring change to Iran, and although that change is moving slowly, things are certainly different from when Rasoulof lived here four years ago.

“When I was arrested, I was saying the exact same things as Mr. Rouhani is saying now. I wonder why nobody arrests him,” Rasoulof says with a laugh.

The 42-year-old filmmaker shuffles around his backyard in a washed-out black sweatshirt, dragging his plastic slippers along the ground with every step. When he sits back in his chair at his small working table, shaded by a tree, he can enjoy something close to silence. This is the only interview he has agreed to since his return, but he does not seem nervous. Here, sheltered from the frantic noise of Iran’s capital, Rasoulof has room to breathe. And that is exactly what many Iranian artists hope to get under Rouhani’s government.

“Of course, one has to be very stupid to think that after Rouhani’s election, the entire Islamic Republic will change,” Rasoulof says. “The important thing is that we can help move things slowly in the right direction.”