Art is at the heart of the uprising in Iran

Stronger than her: Mary (1) continues humming. A melody catches him when he sleeps, when he wakes up, in a traffic jam in Tehran, when he is writing his next novel. “In the name of women, in the name of life, let’s get rid of the bonds of slavery, let our dark night end…”

Sometimes it is this adaptation of the Chilean communist anthem, A united nation will never be defeated, was intoned on October 29 by university music students hiding their faces behind white sheets. It can also be gloomy weather Baraye (“For Farsi”), composed by compatriot Shervin Hajipour on popular requests voiced on Twitter. “For the students and their future, for this forbidden paradise, for the elites in prison…”

“Artists and intellectuals have become the face of the opposition”

Mary is spoiled for choice. Since it began on September 16, the Iranian uprising has been accompanied by many rebellions. Solemn or intimate, they form a soundtrack that both stretches and galvanizes. “Everybody’s humming these tunes, getting us moving,” Mary continues. In return, rebellion feeds musicians as well as many other artists. Paintings, videos, performances… Mainly published on social networks, works inspired by events are abundant in most regions.

” Many’“Iranian artists participate in the uprising.” observes Pamela Karimi, art historian, professor at Dartmouth University, USA, and author of a landmark book on alternative art in Iran (Alternative Iran, not translated). Their participation is due to a simple reason: “For years, Iranians have been prevented from forming political opposition groups. Considering this deficiency, artists and intellectuals have become the face of the opposition. The role of artists is particularly important because the language of art is often indirect and abstract. »

The fruit of creativity, in the immediate aftermath of the events, art does more than represent rebellion: it participates in the same movement and ultimately merges with it. “Art is not the facade of the rebellion, but the heart” the researcher summarizes.

The visual arts play a leading role, owing in part to Persian traditions of miniature and calligraphy. This advantage is also related to social networks that facilitate its wide spread “Prove to the protesters that the world is with them”Kianoush Ramezani, a cartoonist in exile in France, notes the cross. “Fine art that does not depend on translation can cross borders very quickly”, The author is completed by Nasim Wahabi, who is in exile (2).

Images double their persuasive power

Visualization has the advantage of allowing for an almost instantaneous response over, say, fiction. “Literature is always a retrospective thought and cannot do much in the midst of events,” The writer from Tehran, whose art has left viewers with heartache, explains on the condition of anonymity: “Part of me wants to go out into the streets and throw rocks at the police; the other wants to stay behind to explain these stone-throwing things well later. »

Art is at the heart of the uprising in Iran

Images fueled by a monstrous gift redouble their evocative power. Here, a cartoon of a graceful, naked and flawless female body rising into the air against a black background as gunshots ring out—grace wrapped in tragedy. A soft voice sings the drama, guts burst open but not blood, tree branches spurt. Hope, after all, it will be allowed. The light that closes many scenes, for example, is accompanied by this photomontage caption, which places the Supreme Leader’s gag in a blocked ear: “You don’t hear the sound of clubs, nor mothers’ cries, nor sorrow, nor longing for freedom.”

The role of ephemeral art

The images contribute to the formation of the symbolic repertoire of the rebellion. Next to the iconic face of Mahsa Amini, a young woman killed by religious police on September 16, now stands the tiny head of 10-year-old Kian Pirfalak, who was killed by police on November 17. to his family. Since then, the Internet has been filled with portraits of the boy, most often crowned with a rainbow, in which he addressed “god” in a video explaining one of his inventions – he was interested in robotics. Red, orange, yellow, green stripes… to be an emblem.

Ephemeral art also plays a role. Several times a week, fountains in Tehran are filled with blood-red ink. For the authorities trying to empty the basins of which the author of the play is anonymous, a disturbing denunciation fills them again – a challenge to the regime in the form of a tragicomic enigma.

Often anonymity feeds a sense of universality and unification of the people. He also protects. The range of risks is wide. Music students who adapted the Chilean national anthem received a zero in advance on the final exam – kompromat for their diploma.

Artists push the boundaries of fear

But most often it is imprisonment that threatens. Hamid Nikkhah, a street artist paying tribute to the resistance on street signs in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan province, has just been arrested by intelligence. “Many of my colleagues were called to the special services and warned because they criticized the repressions. He trusts Mana Neyestani, a cartoonist in exile in Paris. Therefore, many radical paintings against the regime and the mullahs have been published on Instagram by anonymous profiles or by artists outside of Iran. »

Art is at the heart of the uprising in Iran

.Marginalization is also part of the dangers. Actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who has starred in many of director Asghar Farhadi’s films, took a risk by posting a picture of herself on November 9 with a sign showing her cleavage. “Woman, Life, Freedom” in hand (rebellion slogan).

Taraneh Alidoosti is sending a very strong message of support to people by posing like this, which shows that her career is not a priority., Cergy explains Asal Bagheri, a teacher-researcher, semiologist and expert on Iranian cinema at the University of Paris. Because if the regime continues, he will not be able to work in Iran again. »

Like performers, artists push back the boundaries of fear. The future will tell whether their commitment contributed to the overthrow of the regime. Originally from Iran and based in London, curator Vali Mahlouj warns: “In a revolutionary moment, art has incredible aesthetic power. But when disaster strikes, it must do more than represent or worry, it must defend hope. But the terror has already started. »


Rebellion in history

On September 16 Iranians learned that 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested for violating the rules of wearing a hijab in public places. This is the beginning of demonstrations that spread throughout the territory.

On September 30 90 people were killed by security forces during the demonstration in Zahidan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province.

on October 3, Supreme Leader of the Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei says “These riots and insecurity are the work of the United States and the Zionist regime, about their mercenaries and some traitorous Iranians helping them abroad.”

November 24 The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that more than 14,000 people were arrested in two months. The crackdown also claimed the lives of at least 416 people, including 51 children, according to the Iranian Human Rights NGO (IHR). 6 death sentences were issued in connection with the protests.

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