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It isn't that bad with all this jazz: Cultural Events in Tehran (7 Days, 7 events)

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


You may find it hard to believe, but life in Tehran can be so busy, and not always very bad either. Too many events take place, many exhibitions here and there, concerts, a ceremony for this and for that; overall lots of good, interesting and at time enjoyable events happen in Tehran. Here are samples of a few things that I had the privilege to attend or go to in the past month or so.



Among the many things that take place in Tehran, we saw the launch of the latest book by Ms. Farideh Lashahi around the end of last month. The title of the book was taken from her home region and was called ShaullBanou- or Jackal Came. She is by any standards one the leading Iranian Artists. Her paintings are world famous and her touch and sensibility when exposed on her canvases is at times breathtaking. I am humbly one of her devoted fans, and I enjoy them more than I can describe.


This was book; a sort of personal memoirs. The event took place at Arassbaran Cultural Centre. During the ceremony, first we enjoyed a slideshow of her works, and then with a few words by Nima Yushij, Mr. Esmaeel Janati started the program, which was followed by a chronology of her time and work. Later the commentators came on the podium to speak. In all five people made comments on the book and the writer's work, three journalists/writers, Mr. Aghdashloo the famous artist and Ms. Lashahi's contemporary, as well as the distinguished Ms. Lili Golestan, writer, translator and cultural commentator and activist.


In writing personal memoir, partly true and partly fiction, somehow the writer not only re-lives his/her life but he/she looks back at people and events from a profound and sometimes childish perspective, partly true and partly desired. The book was looked upon from several aspects including historical and its effect on our knowledge of the history of the left, merge of art of writing, the quality of writing itself as well as real factuality.


I was most touched by the piece, titled "As if jackal has taken it all," which Mr. Hadi Yazdanzadeh Movahed, writer/journalist from her part of the world, Rashat, read (after he read a few lines from W.H. Auden). He looked at her book from an emotional side. I had a hard job holding my tears back when Mr. Masoud Safiri, a journalist, referred to the very much 'missed place' of Kaveh Golestan and Ahmad Shamlou at such a gathering, for each to record it in their own way but for the whole world to enjoy.


Generally speaking, the comments were of praise with one exception, which actually enticed my interest to read the book and check things for myself. Between the speakers, we heard passages from the book. jayeh shoma khaali (we missed you)!



I also managed to go to two video/conceptual art shows, both at the new Underground Exhibition area at Arya Gallery. The first was video work by Ms. Taraneh Zandian who worked with Mohammad Moghadam.  Their work was most interesting


She had made a video from women in black or white customs in the desert. The sense of nature, emptiness, life was mesmerizing.  It felt as if there is a hidden mirror of wisdom somewhere that you could not see yet felt its presence most effectively. I had gone down to just drop by and be polite, but I sat down and watched it twice. It was most effective. I can only hope that she and those who have such powerful emotional talent get a chance to demonstrate their work to more people so that they can enjoy them too. It is a pity that I couldn't share this joy with you with some pictures.


The other show, by Farah Abolghassem, Arya Eghball and Mohammad Moghaddm, was ok, but nothing much to write home about.  In any case, these new venues of expression are becoming more expressive and interesting to observe in the art scene in Tehran.



In middle of all this I had to go to Kish island on business along with a large group of businessmen, family and friends for an opening of a large store. I was pleased to note that Paradise II is still as nice and clean looking as it was when it was opened couple of years ago. However, the rest of Kish was the same. Despite the huge investment that must have gone into all these new hotels, there were so few tourists or visitors. I wonder really how they make any money.  A few business persons told me that they are lucky if they break even, but then one lives on hope.  We went to so many restaurants and ate too much as usual and had to endure the very same old and not even nice live music. I cannot understand why they have to have live band day and night. The hotel we stayed was clean and comfortable and I watched BBC World and CNN during my breaks from duty.


Nevertheless, the best part was when one morning I got up early and went to restricted area for women where we could swim and sunbath, with free sun beds and shower, locker all for the entry prize of 10,000 Rials, or US$1.25.  But before I either went for swim or laid down under the sun, I had a long session of good Yoga right in front of the Persian Gulf, on those lovely beige color sands. As the sun was getting stronger, the lovely wind made it all so much more pleasant and enjoyable. I shall never forget this yoga session!



Another event that I wish to inform you about was the ceremony that I went to for the Grand Memar Award, which is given every year to best architecture work in Iran, every two years to private building/work or public one by MemarNashr.  MemarNashr is a specialized magazine, which is run by Mr. Hashemi and Ms. Baski. It enjoys a very good reputation among architects and student of that field in Iran. The magazine, even for a layperson like me, has interesting interviews and article to read. This year was the turn for public building since 1979. 


The ceremony was held at the Diplomatic Club, which is, literally on the top of east hills of Tehran. I and the taxi driver who took me there had never ventured to these parts before. The club was very nice even in the dark to look at.  I was welcomed and my invitation card was checked electronically and nametag issued. The event was held with cooperation of Super Pipe, which is a very successful production company. This was a pretty posh place and there were too many going around. Although, the result did not match the attire and inside the saloon efficiency slipped! Several cameras being set up, the small band tuned the microphones. By then there was a heavy snow falling, and so the event actually started about 90 minutes later than planned.




As we waited for the whole jury and the others, who were stuck in snow, to arrive, I was looking around and I was truly impressed with two things. First, with the number of young women architects who were present. From my generation, the balance of sexes was definitely in favor of men. And second how casually everybody shook everybody else's hands, disrespectful of the gender! Then I sent a prayer to Mrs. Ebadi and her daring gesture at Amirkabir University some weeks back.


Finally the program started and the CEO of MemarvaNashar , Ms. Beski, gave a small talk about the prize history, the way the selection was made, and the panel of judges who were well known  and distinguished architects and university lecturers from Iran, UK and Japan. Then we watched a short video, made during judges' meetings and their selection process. After we had a speech made by CEO of Super Pipe.



Twenty-seven had met the competition criteria and had entered it.  Out of these, 11 projects had reached the semifinal and five had reached the final stage. Out of these public buildings made since 1979, there were two metro stations, one embassy, and a few private and governmental buildings, as well as a sport centre.  The first prize for Memar 1382 prize was awarded to Mr. Hadi Mirmiran for his Kanoun Vokalayeh Iran [Association of Iranian Lawyers] building. The prize was received by Mr. Mirmiran son, as he was too ill to come himself. Afterwards, dinner was served, as we watched the snow falling and each wondering how to get back home.



I don't want you to think that all the exhibitions that one goes to are good.  I have been to some terrible ones recently. One such event was a Photo exhibition by a prominent sculpture, writer/translator at Rahe Abrisham (the Silk Road) Gallery.  It was so bad that I thought even elementary photographic students could have done better. I simply cannot imagine why some must try their hand at everything. Is it age? Only God knows. I simply wished that people would not get carried away with their ego and think just because they are or were good at one thing they can do anything!


I did manage to go to two other painting exhibitions of young women in early 20s. Both seemed determined and passionate. Paymaneh Azimi, student of a well-known expressionist artist Mr. Behrouz Moslemain, showed some serious potential with her works, and one could easily see the influence of the master in her work. However, I wished she should lighten up her use of color in her work and review use of so much black. Here there are a few samples of her work, including a picture of her, for your eye.


In addition, the works of another young artist, Ms. Ghazal Haydari, at Banafshe Gallery were short of ok for my taste. Her works was without a doubt heavily influenced by Gustav Klimt and would be more appropriate for textile. Yet I was amazed that she did not know Klimt when I mentioned it to her.  Still one keeps one's fingers crossed and hopes that these young artists work hard, and find their own path in the future.




I went to visit a Girls School that is located in Northwest of Tehran and has a very efficient and caring staff.  I went there as a member of the Cooperative under which the school operates.  The members of the cooperative consist of the staff who have worked there a number of years as well as professional and technocrats who have or had school aged children who attended the school mostly.


 The school consists of first grade and second grade, what we call here, Dabestan & Rahnamie (guidance) schools. The former has five-class years and the latter only three.  The school is in the process of obtaining permission for high school as well, and we all hope this will happen soon. The Cooperative has purchased a land next to the school, which hopes to use for the high school purposes.



I wanted to see what it is like inside the classrooms and specially the interaction therein.  We had heard so much during the board meetings that I was curious to do so, and as I was starting work again soon, I put a stop to postponing it and asked my friend Ms. Yousofi, the headmistress, for permission to go there.


I must admit what impressed me most was the fact that in all classes there was such a high degree of interaction. This was quite visible between the teachers and students as well as the students themselves.


The school is run in a very friendly and casual and yet professional manner.



They make the best use of the limited facilities that there have. I was pleased to note that the girls in science or handicraft workshop were very active and there was a high degree of involvement and interest by the students.  I guess at the next cooperative board meeting I must give my report to the members who have not seen it, what a pity as the visit gave me a great deal of positive energy! It was so wonderful to see our girls in safe and professional hands helping them to become responsible as well as educated adults for a better future for all.


I have taken some pictures during my visit that I share with you.



Finally, I want to share a wonderful experience with you. I have known a gentleman on business for several years who comes to us once a week for our weekly delivery, and he is a very interesting character. We have always exchanged tips on films and cinema events. But I was almost flabbergasted when we got talking the other day and I found out that he is a qualified and registered social worker and, specialist in self-help workshops, and he gets more offers to run workshops than he could possibly find time for.


I was indeed fascinated. I kindly asked him to allow me to sit in one of their therapy classes, and like a true gentleman he obliged and we agreed that I go one afternoon to one of them.


There were about 11 people in all at the workshop, including the chair. The group's permission was obtained for me to join the class that afternoon. This was their ninth class from a course of 10, so most people knew each other well. The participants were almost all active, with one or two exception.  The discussion started off around the events of what had happened to them during the course of the week, how they looked at it afterwards and now in hindsight, what others thought had happened.


The openness and the flow of the interactions were wonderful to observe. This was by any standards a great self-help group. The students themselves were extremely self-reflecting and analyzed on their own the possible reasons, action or sayings of others in their weekly lives.  These people were learning to be active listeners as well as going to find control over their lives, and ride their lives consciously and knowingly. If not all would reach this stage, I am certain then at least those who tried and worked on themselves and wanted to embrace the challenge would succeed.  We all went home with many questions in our minds, each of which was a new challenge and new road to a better life. For me there was this extra advantage that despite all 'bad things' there are so many good things that happen here. Thanks god the almighty indeed.


... Payvand News - 2/6/04 ... --

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