• 24 October 2016
  • Posted By Roya Pourmand
  • 0 Comments
  • Culture, Events in DC, Sanctions

Mehdi Ghadyanloo: Beautifying Tehran One Wall at a Time

After answering an open call for artists in 2004, Iranian muralist, Mehdi Ghadyanloo was commissioned by the Tehran City Municipality to paint over 100 colorful murals. A city once covered in political paintings, either in remembrance of Iran-Iraq War martyrs or with negative slurs regarding America, Tehran had almost 5,000 bare walls to paint. When he found out it was possible to beautify the walls of Tehran, he took his chance and began to brighten up the city with his colorful, surrealist art. As part of the Future of Iran Initiative, the Atlantic Council hosted a conversation this past Thursday with Ghadyanloo and David Furchgott, the President of International Arts & Artists.

In his murals, Ghadyanloo tries to convey a message of hope, a positive message he believes should be expressed in all public works of art. He feels that hope is a universal message. “You need hope, as an Iranian under a sanctioned country, as a country in the Middle East, or even as citizens of America. I think we all need hope and public art can create this balance,” said Ghadyanloo.

Furchgott pointed out that Ghadyanloo’s art has often been compared to Magritte, a well-known Belgian surrealist artist. However, he added that Ghadyanloo’s art “has much more of a modern sensibility and is much less connected to any particular culture, they’re very universal.” Ghadyanloo attributed his universality to reading novels and watching films from “every corner of the world” in order to gain a better understanding of certain peoples.

Although his work is universal, much of his work was influenced by his own life, growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. Contrary to the messages of hope and positivity in his public murals, Ghadyanloo channeled the memories of fear and loss experienced in the war through many of his private pieces. One of his most vivid childhood memories was seeing images of the 1988 Iran Air flight being shot down, which he represented in “Logic of Metaphysics” and “290 Wandering Souls.”

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When asked how sanctions have impacted his work, Ghadyanloo replied that the quality of paint in both his public and private art have been compromised due to sanctions. He indicated that sanctions can be felt in all corners of Iran, not only in the art industry. He told the story of farmers, such as his own father, who could not find reasonably priced pesticides due to the sanctions. Ghadyanloo also indicated that the art scene in Iran has also been constrained by H.R. 158, a recent law that bars visa-free travel to the U.S. for persons who hold dual nationality from or have traveled to a list of restricted countries, including Iran. According to Ghadyanloo, the restrictions have stopped European art collectors from visiting Iran due to their desire to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Ghadyanloo has been fortunate to obtain a US visa and export his works outside the country, yet the average Iranian artist may not have these privileges. Ghadyanloo is currently working on the new mural at Dewey Square Park in Boston, titled “Spaces of Hope.” This will be the fifth mural featured on the Greenway Wall, each painted by a different international artist.

Find photos of Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s works on his Instagram and Facebook page.

Posted By Roya Pourmand

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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