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January across the central desert of Iran with Benjamin Hewett

Report by Ahmad Nadalian, RiverArt

In January 2008 we received British sculptor, Benjamin Hewett (Ben) who came to our Paradise.


He showed me his carvings that to me seem to be the standard of an artist from the west, but I was impressed of his life, and the way that he lives in the top of an old oak tree in west Wales and usually consumes and lives off the food which is "out of date". He was not fully aware that the way that he lives can be a good base to be an eco-artist.  He lives on the top of a tree and is sensitive about the waste of food. What he needed was to write a statement and introduce this way of life as an art concept.



Ben worked in my studio for three weeks and produced a number of carvings. As we worked, we discussed a lot and now he agrees with me that his life can be his art.  In my view his tree house and why he eats wasted food is more interesting than his carvings.


In January 2008, Ben participated in the; Dream of Peace, the 15th Environmental Art Festival in the Persian Gulf, working individually and helping us to realize other collaborative projects, supporting peace and a reaction against war.



Then Ben traveled to different parts of Iran and exploring our country, in some areas he continued to produce sculptures.  


He stayed in Iran for three months and now he is proficient in Persian.  In my recent trip to the central desert of Iran he accompanied me and my family and we traveled to the Maranjab desert on the southern side of the Sea of Salt.


First we traveled to the historic city of Kashan, and from there we targeted the Sea of Salt.  On our way we explored the desert and saw the beauty of the new spring flowers coloring this normally arid landscape and the creatures of the desert.

Print on Sand  in the Maranjab Desert

I know that this area is mostly sand and desert.  I designed and produced three cylinder seals.  Ben and my son Behzad assisted me to print these new seals in the sand and then took photos of me, while I worked.  I usually suggest a location and start to print. Sometime a single line which shows a sequence of creatures and sometimes I make a pattern. The best photos can be taken in the early morning or the late afternoon when the sun is at its lowest. More




We visited and old fortified building which served the travelers of the caravan (Carawansara) in the southern part of the Sea of Salt. It was amazing to see such a paradise in the middle of desert and imagine in the old time when people trod the Silk Road and after fifty kilometers walk each day used it as a place of rest.



On our way one of my vehicles had a puncture. I didn't want to risk driving on the spare wheel, so I decided to drive fifty kilometer back and repair my tire then continue my journey. In this remote region it is dangerous to go into it without a 4X4.



Our final destination was the Sea of Salt.  We drove to south east part of the sea which has no water but is wet.   More



It looked like a magical land and we felt that we were on anther planet.  A layer of salt covered everywhere. The texture and colors were so different I used a stick and designed many fish on the sea bed.  When I scratched through the salt layers and revealed the clay beneath.  I felt this sea needed some fish. More



When we returned to Kashan we also visited some historic houses. They are amazing in architectural terms of design, space and geometrical patterns.



While Ben was with us he always criticizesed people who left their garbage, plastic bottles and bags in nature. He also criticizes people around the world including Iranians that waste food.  



He said on his way to Iran while in transit in Milan airport he couldn't let the food in the restaurant be wasted and happily devoured it.  I suggest a performance related to this fact for his last dinner before his departure to the UK.   More Images



We went to a fast food restaurant near Engelab square and Ben made one performance.   He consumed the left over food wasted by its customers. This was a symbolic action to show people they should not waste food. They should buy only as much as they can eat.  Billions of tons of food are thrown away each year, while millions of people suffering from starvation and hunger.  The costumers were surprised why this foreigner who was eating the left over food.  Some of them realized that their food may be eaten and quickly finished their plates and took the left overs with them. More Images


On the 2nd of April 2008, Ben went back home. Before he left I give him one of my carvings which had a design of a bird. I called this bird "the Bird of Peace". Ben will take it home and make a nest in a hollow of a tree where he lives and this bird will start a new life.  More Images



As an Iranian, I thought this can be the best present to give to the people of UK.

I remember in April last year when I was in UK, at the same time when the British navy trespassed into Iranian waters and were arrested by the Iranian navy, I took my fish to the water of the Uk and no one arrested my fish.  Creatures of our planet live without borders.  More Images



INTERVIEW with Benjamin Hewett:


Que; why have you decided to live within nature?

Only after thirty years of living in London did I realize that there was more to life than commuting to work every day on a crowded train or stuck in traffic jam breathing in fumes.  Then after much thought I made the move to the countryside  It was only until I built my tree house and that I started living in it that I understood the power of nature. The tree house is designed to move with the wind, and only when you are living in it with high winds do you understand why nature must be strong and compatible with its surroundings in order to live in harmony.


Que; what is your motivation for traveling to Iran

I have known Iranian people in London and enjoyed their company and cuisine. But also was intrigued to see behind the curtain that the west has put up, the propaganda that has tarred the face of Iran. I wanted to travel blind without a guide book to just let it happen, and not follow the same path as other tourists.


Que; what inspiration did you gain from environmental artists?

Only after I was invited to work on Nadalians studio did I realize that there was more to my work than just sculpture, and that the Freegan lifestyle that I live was very much connected to the environment! I felt that I had spread the message, and concentrate more on environmental art.  I am planning to use what I have learnt in Iran and start my own environmental art center, and collaborate with other artists in this field.


Que; what disturbed you in Iran?

One of the things that upset me most was the way they treated public spaces. The people spoke of their respect for old traditions, and faiths but I felt they didn't keep hold of them when they were outside of home. Having enjoyed being invited into Iranian family homes, and treated with fine hospitality, cleanliness, friendship, and respect. For then to go into the street where people somehow lost some of these attributes, and had less respect for each other or the public space. Crossing the road became a nightmare everyone obliviously unaware of the other driver or pedestrian, the blatant throwing of garbage, and wasted food.



Que; what impressed you in Iran?

That traditional skills are kept alive, and that traditions are not lost they are passed down from father to son. After previously visiting the Taj Mahal in India realized that its architect is Persian, I became fascinated by the old designs of Iran. All around the country I saw the harmony between nature, and architecture.


That there Is a good family bond, and helpfulness for the traveler I found that I could go with their agenda, and that's just what happened to impress me.


Que; what is your impression about this festival?

Having been told that the festival had never had any outside sponsorship I was very impressed. Arriving tired after a long bus ride, and boat trip, I was brightened up by an amazing island with a Martian type landscape surrounded by clear blue water. More than a hundred, young artists attended the festival over a few days. Their environmental art will send a strong message to the people of our planet.


Que; what is the impact of war on the environment?

As we all know there will never be peace in our world, but by making a peaceful protest with art we can get the message across to others in the hope they will listen. Visiting Abadan, and Khoramshar I saw at first hand the debris and scars of war when only across the river Iraq lay with its daily bloodshed.

After wars the environments become polluted by it, people still losing legs long after the soldiers have gone.


Que; what we environmental artist can do for global peace?

Since coming recently into environmental art, I have found that it sends a clear message directly to us, instead of having a piece of art work in your home for the individual to enjoy.  You have piece of work that the general public can understand, and learn from.


The works can send a clearer message to all that our earth needs live in harmony, and not against it. More Images


About Ahmad Nadalian

Ahmad Nadalian is internationally known as one of the most active environmental artists. He has been supported and sponsored by many different organizations in many countries throughout the world, where he has performed numerous environmental art projects in countries such as; Italy, Germany, USA, UK, Spain, France, China, Netherlands,   Greece,  Russia, Uzbekistan,  Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Finland, Lebanon, Syria,  Azerbaijan,  Sweden, Denmark,  United Arab Emirates,  Qatar,  Kuwait, Turkey, Switzerland, Serbia ....and his homeland Iran.

Also he has been invited as a guest lecturer to different universities, organizations and art centers, during his visits he has given talks and workshops on a variety of relevant art issues such as Environmental and Interactive arts

He also organized many major environmental art festivals in his native country Iran, and has helped to supervise young environmental artists around the globe.

... Payvand News - 06/23/08 ... --

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