Iranian artist, Naser Ovissi
Acrylic on canvas
60 x 80 cm
An Iranian woman holds a Palestinian flag as she shows her palm painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag during the ‘Quds Day’ rally, an anti Israeli demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians in Tehran on August 17, 2012. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Israel is a ‘cancerous tumour’ that will soon be finished off. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/GettyImages)
“One day outside the Statistic and Registration Administration in Tehran, I discovered piles of discarded identity cards by the dustbins. They were all of women born in the early 1940s, who were photographed in their youth. The astonishing diversity of hair-dos – only a minority wore a scarf or chador – reflected the variety of choices that women had in the late 1950s and 60s. The ID cards also represented the many different classes and personalities of women of the time, from shy and demure to upfront, confident and glamorous.
When I found these pictures, sometime in 2005, I wondered whether these women had died, never renewed their identity or emigrated. It seemed to me that the government was most probably erasing evidence of our recent and distant past, for these photographs oppose the current dominant culture. I was shocked that these records of our community could be discarded so easily, without remorse. Photography is more about discovering than creating. Being a finder is the dominant, innate state. In Irandokht I have tried to stitch together another aspect of our history, one that is not about throwing away, ignorance and corruption. To me, discarding history reflects the intolerance and negligence of institutions in power. The Irandokht series invites the audience to face a certain period without any judgment. These women lived in Iran, and I feel I am in some way reviving and preserving their memory.”
Kiana Hayeri grew up in Tehran, where the country’s morality police restricted her public behavior. She left in 2005 when she was 17 and moved to Toronto, where she studied photography at Ryerson University.
Ms. Hayeri returned to Iran in 2010 to explore the dual lives of many young women who are expected to behave and dress modestly in public by covering their hair, arms and legs. But behind closed doors, these women act very much like Ms. Hayeri’s Canadian friends — dating, singing, studying ballet and even swimming.
Ms. Hayeri does not claim that her project represents the entirety of Iran. But she said there are many young people in the big cities who yearn for a less constricting public life.
“It’s a whole world that many Americans are unaware of,” she said. “Nowadays, with all this talk about war, sanctions and nuclear weapons, people tend to forget about ordinary people, the actual people who live in Iran, and they only look at the government.”
- Preparing for paintball, a sport forbidden to women
- Maryam and her boyfriend drive around the city. Men and Women in a car together invites extra scrutiny by the morality police.
- Girls in a park let their hijabis fall to their shoulders.
- Women are not allowed to swim in public, even fully clothed.
- Even though bold makeup is a concern for the morality police, Mina readied herself to go out.