IRANIAN ART PHOTOGRAPHY FILM WOMEN 27 September 2008 – 10 January 2009
30 Years of Solitude is a survey show of photography and film by some of Iran’s most talented women artists and is the first exhibition in the UK featuring artists who all live and work in Iran.
Curated by architect Faryar Javaherian and artist Haleh Anvari the exhibition focuses on the feelings of anxiety, isolation and the sense of loss that Iranian society has experienced in the last 30 years.
Thirty Years of Solitude came about after the art critic Edward Lucie-Smith was struck by the quality of the work coming out of Iran, and persuaded the president of New Hall, Anne Lonsdale, to consider mounting an exhibition. New Hall, one of two all-women colleges in Cambridge, is a long-time supporter of women artists and displays the world’s second-largest collection of women’s art on its college walls.
Lonsdale then booked herself on an anonymous tourist holiday to Iran – “I didn’t want to get anyone into trouble” – to sound out Javaherian, a Harvard-educated architect, about the possibility and saw immediately that it would be worth doing. “These directors and photographers deserve to be better known,” she says. “Let’s hope this is part of an increasing dialogue between Britain and Iran.”
For younger artists, who cannot remember pre-revolutionary Iran, restrictions are simply a fact of life. Farzaneh Khademian is Iran’s leading woman photojournalist, whose work appears regularly in news magazines around the world. She has covered everything from battles in Beirut to sex-change operations and says “you can do almost everything you like, only sometimes you have to do it more quietly.”
Her photographs in the exhibition show veiled women kayaking and kick-boxing, although normally, she points out, the women would be doing this in sports clothes. “It was only because I was there, they had to put on their scarves.” She is aiming for a full set of sportswomen, from golfers to skiers, to show how fully Iranian women live their lives, but has given up for the moment because “you ask and ask for permission and nothing happens, and then you get tired, and you think you will just put it down for a year and go back to it later.”
Iranian women’s lives are full of contradictions. They do not have he same rights as men, and their testimony in a court of law is worth exactly half of a man’s. Yet they drive, travel and do jobs of all kinds. “People think that we are living like the Arabists (sic),” says Khademian, “but it is not like that. Women are far more active now than they ever were before the revolution. They are studying, working, doing everything they want to do.”
- For article originally published in Independent via Hilary Wilce
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