An Iranian friend of mine chastised me not so long ago, “why aren’t you painting something about what’s happening in Iran?”
My knee-jerk reaction was to say no, because it’s not my country, not my struggle, and it seems morally repugnant to paint about that topic if the reason is to try and sell paintings. My reaction was roundly rejected, it was pointed out that I follow these political developments, care deeply about these people, and have strong opinions on this subject, and as a British artist (this is a reference to the history between the two states) it would be nice if I could express that solidarity rather than remaining silent.
Shortly after that conversation, I saw a post (on either Twitter or Instagram) by an Iranian woman asking people to amplify their voices, not to ignore their struggles, and imploring the people reading the post to use any means they have to draw attention to the plight of the women of Iran and their struggles to gain basic bodily autonomy.
I paint other pictures that touch on overtly political themes, so it isn’t outside of my normal artistic expression.
It was the killing of Nika Shakarami that pushed me over the edge and compelled me to paint this piece. The photos and videos of her, social posts where she is singing and goofing around like any other 16-year-old girl in juxtaposition with the photos of her body after being thrown from the top of a building were just beyond heartbreaking. Even typing this now and thinking about it makes me physically nauseous.
Acrylic paints on a canvas background with names written in letters clipped from a newspaper.
The girls named are:
Mahsa Amini aged 22, died under suspicious circumstances on the 16th of September after being arrested in Tehran. It was her death that triggered the current waves of protest.
Sarina Esmailzadeh aged 16, beaten to death with batons in Karaj on the 20th of September.
Nika Shakarami aged 16, murdered by security forces in Tehran on the 20th of September.
Hadis Najafi aged 23, shot by security forces in Karaj on the 21st of September.
The writing in Farsi on the bottom left says Women, Life, Freedom which is one of the slogans that has become attached to these protests against the regime.
WOMEN – LIFE – FREEDOM