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No pomegranates in Saveh, but art works instead!

By Jacqueline Mirsadeghi



Following last winter's extreme sub-freezing temperatures (-18C and below , =  - 2F) over an 18-day period in January 08, most pomegranate orchards north of the Fars province in Iran have suffered irreparable damage. The growers had no alternative but to cut down the frozen tree trunks (20cm /8 inches into the earth) to allow new shoots to spring up from the deep roots. Thus, most plantations in those areas had no pomegranate harvest this fall. In the Saveh area alone, 20.000 acres (8500 hectares) of pomegranate trees were cut down, which should have yielded some 200,000 tons of pomegranates. Next year, the growers can expect only 10 to 15% of the usual crop. It is estimated that it will take at least 5-7 years before the losses will be made up.


photo by Jacqueline Mirsadeghi


When it is harvest season in Saveh (Iran's most famous pomegranate region), the traveler passing through marvels at the bountiful stands of intensely red pomegranates being displayed and sold by the side of the road. But this year, the sellers were proposing....pinkish pomegranates from Shiraz! Only the "Savehjis" knew these fruits were not from their region, because unfortunately most Iranians, especially in Tehran, had no idea of the plight of many fruits growers (alongside with pomegranate trees, other fruit trees have also succumbed to the extreme weather: fig trees, some vines and many citrus fruit trees of the north). Insurance only covers 10% of the loss suffered in the year following a natural disaster; for the following years, the growers have to bear all the expenses like watering, fertilizing and pruning, with hardly any income to compensate.


Painting by Farzaneh Mahjoobi


So the idea of the First Saveh Pomegranate Visual Art Festival came about, to make the general public aware of the pomegranate growers plight, by using the pomegranate's symbolic properties in art, culture and folklore through the means of visual arts. Thanks to the enthusiastic energy of the painter Marzieh Ramezani who has Saveh origins, the project took shape towards the end of October 08, at the usual time of the pomegranate harvest. Instead of pomegranates, there were over 200 art works sent from all over the country to a specially organized competition. A jury selected some 30 works and rewarded 5 of them in an exhibition held in Saveh on the 14th of November 08. The opening day of this exhibition was marked by several events in different parts of Saveh; some 90 artists and news people came from Tehran with special buses; among them were known painters such as: Reza Bankiz, Mahmoud Javadipour, Manoocher Niāzi, Kioomarz Ghoorchian, Mr. Rahimi, Hassan Jahani, Hossein Zomorrodi, Manoocher Tavanfar, Taha Behbahani, Abdolmajid Hosseini Raad, Saideh Farhang; among the photographers were Afshin Bakhtiar and Mojtaba Aghaļ, and the renowned graphic artist Ghobad Shiva was present too.




The artists met up with the growers and officials from the village, town and province in a locale near the Nooralibeyk pomegranate orchards outside of Saveh to share the traditional "ab-goosht" for lunch; the setting of this warehouse built using traditional architecture lent itself well for hosting this special meal followed by a "workshop", in which ten renowned painters produced art works featuring pomegranates in front of this wide public of various origins.



Then the participants of this special day met up again on grounds outside Saveh's recreational area which the city specially allocated to mark this solidarity event: all those who attended were invited to plant a young pomegranate tree, bearing their name, as a symbolic gesture.



Painter Saideh-Farhang planting a tree


An official ceremony was held in town at sundown, which opened with a short film featuring the seasons of the pomegranate orchards and the harvest. Especially interesting and moving was the testimony given by pomegranate grower Ali Yazdanpanah, who brought near the reality of the huge loss and the slow recovery towards future harvests, underlining the urgent need for assistance to the growers in order to see them through the hard times they are facing now and for the following years.


Ali Yazdanpanah


After the official ceremony, the guests were invited to see the exhibition of the chosen art works on pomegranates; to close the day, the artists were invited to have dinner at a restaurant in the industrial city of Saveh, as a gesture from Industry to the growers and the supporting artists.


Painting by Parvaneh Razaghi


Throughout the day, tv crews, journalists and photographers followed the events, which resulted in nation-wide coverage: channels 2 and 4 of the Iranian TV, IRNA and Jām-e-Jam internet news covered this unusual gathering, to mention just a few. Over 18 organizations pledged some 30 million toman to finance the event, from various sectors: the city, province, agricultural and industrial organizations, artistic institutions, and international organizations such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization).



The exhibition was also shown in Arak (The Markazi province's capital) and in Tehran, in the FAM art gallery. All those who made that first Visual Arts Festival possible are now trying hard to give this event international coverage and hopefully find more opportunities to exhibit the results of this great solidarity movement linking the artists to the stricken pomegranate growers.



About the author: Born in 1962 in Izmir, Turkey, of French father and Dutch-German mother, Jacqueline Mirsadeghi grew up in Switzerland, married an Iranian in 1983. She has lived in Iran for 14 years and is the author of Pomegranate Garden

Pomegranate Garden (Narestan) can be ordered online

Related Article: "I had a pomegranate garden in Iran..."

To learn more on the pomegranate and its seasons, you will find interesting links when visiting the following site:

... Payvand News - 12/22/08 ... --

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