‘Tehran contributing significantly to the world of art’
By: Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: Young artists in Tehran are now looking at their pre-Islamic roots with eagerness and are also contributing significantly to the world of art, said visual artist Naiza Khan at an event titled ‘Melon Jelly in Tehran’ at T2F on Thursday night.
The artist was recently invited by Rybon Art Centre for a two-week residency in Iran’s capital.
In the beginning of her talk, Khan established that she had to walk into a shop from where she could get a hijab and an abaya in order to land in Tehran. She showed a number of images of Tehran and explained each one’s background to the audience.
She said she began her journey of the city by browsing through its bazaars and streets and showed an image of a carpet shop. She said the consumer there had diverse tastes. Among other things non-alcoholic malt beverage could be had there, which was a kind of a parallel track that ran in that society.
Khan said it was problematic to take photographs and video footage of the goings-on in the city, but the chance encounters with people on buses and metro were interesting.
She showed a picture of a pizza joint, set up during Shah’s time, in which taking off the hijab was not allowed. She told the audience about an artist, a photographer, who accompanied her during her visits to different places.
The photographer was a little nervous every time she (Khan) wanted to take a picture. She told her that the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance kept a check on exhibitions that took place in the city. She claimed that things had become stricter after the 2009 elections in Iran.
Khan said the artists in Tehran had an implicit pact to boycott all government programmes because of the way the government functioned.
“There’s a big divide in that regard.”
She informed the audience that photography was huge in Iran and the genre was one of their bigger success stories. She said the metro and buses in Tehran were all air-conditioned and were similar to those in London. She then showed a very short loop of a video footage of a metro station which she shot while camouflaging the camera. The viewer could see commuters going up and down the stairs.
Khan also displayed pictures of some of the known Iranian artists, after which she spoke on the murals that adorn Tehran’s buildings and streets. She said there were different kinds of murals, including the ones which showed those who lost their lives in the Iran-Iraq war, which signified their religious belief as well as their modern history. Interestingly, she argued, young artists in Tehran were becoming secular.
She said the street where she lived had no less fewer than five bakeries selling a variety of bread. It was something that inspired her to create art. She said on Tuesdays there was a boycott of bread and milk because of their increased prices. She mentioned that during her course of interaction with artists she found out that they made a distinction between Muslim and Persian names. When she asked someone about his name he told her that it was not Muslim but a Persian name. She commented artists in Tehran were now looking for their pre-Islamic roots. This, and some other observations, made Khan write down three questions for her fellow artists (1) Is your name Persian or Muslim? (2) Why do women dye their hair blonde? (3) Why do men and women not wear bright clothes?
Khan again mentioned the parallel track in Tehran society where women wore abayas and then at private gatherings could be seen in skirts.
With respect to architecture, she showed a beautiful picture of the Gulistan Palace made by Qajar kings. She said Iranian’s love of photography went back to the time when a member of the Qajar dynasty went to Europe in the 1870s and brought back a camera with him.
In the end, she briefly touched on contemporary Iranian artists, both within Iran and the one belonging to the Diaspora, and claimed their work was being noticed in the world of art.