Learning Farsi, Easy As Aa, Beh, Seh

Kids today seem to have it all, especially when it comes to new and innovative educational toys. Language learning games seem to be popping up every day, yet especially in this country, their scope is limiting in that they really only cater to the more widely-spoken languages in the United States. Remember playing with woodblocks to learn the alphabet? This wasn’t a reality for Iranian-American children whose parents wanted to raise them to speak fluently in Farsi. That is, until now.

Enter Dr. Golbarg Bashi, an internationally-recognized photographer and Columbia-educated expert on feminist critiques of human rights discourses in Iran. Until recently, she taught Middle Eastern studies at Rutgers University, but left her position to start Dr. Bashi Toys and Fashion, a “small Mom-owned multilingual, gender-conscious, eco-friendly and socially-responsible toy and fashion company based in New York City.” In collaboration with prolific designer and calligrapher Kourosh Beigpour, Dr. Bashi has been making a splash with her debut of the world’s first Persian-language wood blocks made of sustainable materials and produced entirely in the USA.

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Kodachrome Tehran

The world of Tehran is on the news all the time, but where is it? Caught somewhere between the binaries of exotic East and the Axis of Evil, Iran’s capital city is typically depicted one of two ways: it’s either sensationalized or apologetic. Are the photos and shots depicted daily on tweets and news flashes really authentic to the people and culture of the humans of Tehran? Many times, they’re not. The reality is, Tehran is not as far away as one would think. Yet, politics forces many of its people to prove their humanity on a daily basis, which outsiders don’t often considered authentic until a Western tourist spends a week there and comes home with a travel essay validating that the “land of chadors and turbans” is, in fact, decent, respectful and dare we say fond of white people and American culture?

Perhaps one of the greatest recent imports into Iran has been social media, because it’s through the democratization of the Internet and sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and others that Iranians have been able to access and export themselves to the outside world. Instead of depending on some sympathetic foreigner to repeat what many there already know to be true, those actually inside the country now have platforms that allow them to take control of their own narratives, to speak for themselves in relation to each other as Iranians, as opposed to the prevalent, privileged and superficial “us vs. them” monologue that has for so long plagued Iranian culture’s PR campaign.

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Artist Spotlight: Negar Ahkami And The Whirlwind Of Consumption, Part 2

This is part two of our interview with Iranian artist Negar Ahkami. 

Aslan Media contributing writer Donna Honarpisheh recently had a chance to chat with Negar Ahkami about The Consumption, the layered meanings behind her trademark whirlwind patterns and the bridge her work creates between Iranian identity and the Western world.

Aslan Media: We’ve talked about your use of water imagery already, but I think it’s worth delving deeper into this idea. Your piece ‘The Water is Turbid from its Source’ incorporates this theme very explicitly. What role does water play and how does this relate to the overarching theme of ‘consumption’?

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Who Wrote The Book Of Love? Rumi Did!

For over 35 years, Salma Arastu’s art has been a celebration of both the human spirit and the human form. Anyone who strolls into the artist’s cozy Berkeley studio is immediately greeted by dozens of canvases and sculptures in every size and shape. It’s difficult not to marvel at Arastu’s artistic prolificacy--she also has over 40 solo exhibitions to her credit—or not envy her daily practice of working in her studio to create new art. Whether it’s acrylic, copper, paper, wood, clay or mixed media, Arastu is comfortable and proficient working with a variety of different mediums and thrives on experimentation. Arastu is also a skilled Arabic calligrapher who often incorporates words or verses from the Qur’an in her paintings.

Bold colors, lyrical lines, rich textures and constant movement are hallmarks of Artastu’s work, but universal love is the underlying message of all her pieces. “I want to give joy to people,” she remarks, “peace to people, hope to people.”

Arastu was born and raised in India and began painting at an early age. Her talent was quickly recognized by her parents, who encouraged her to paint. As a young artist, Arastu was moved by nature—particularly trees, clouds and waves—but her work took on a more spiritual dimension after marriage when she converted to Islam.

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Artist Spotlight: Negar Ahkami And The Whirlwind Of Consumption

In a conversation with Iranian-American artist Negar Ahkami, we learn about her new body of work entitled, The Consumption, recently exhibited at the Leila Heller Gallery in New York City. While the familiar turquoise-blue colors unique to Persian architecture and Islamic tradition remain a clear influence in Ahkami’s paintings, in this collection we encounter pieces that are distinctly her own in style, texture, and feeling.

As viewers, we are summed by the cacophonous, whirlwind patterns of Ahkami’s pieces, mesmerized by the layers of both surfaces and subtext. The power of The Consumption is Ahkami’s ability to transfer the embodied feelings, emotions and aura of entering an all-consuming space into a painting. Her work is not about replicating stylistic elements or painting beautiful sceneries (although they are beautiful), because that is something any talented artist could achieve. Rather, her work paints the horror, the suffocation and the ecstatic beauty of being in a state of consumption from East to West. For this reason, her work actually challenges the delicacy and the refined nature of Persian miniatures or intricate tiles in Islamic patterns. This in turn requires a certain action and energy from the viewer removing all sense of passivity, in other words, to truly “consume” the work of Ahkami, we must enter into a state of ecstasy, to not just see but to feel the painting. The Consumption is a sophisticated exhibit and I advise all who are prepared to experience it with eyes wide open.

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Of Intellect and Art: Aslan Media's Art Editor Takes on Interfaith History

If you are in any way tuned into Fox News’s vapid-gone-viral interview in which Aslan Media founder Reza Aslan channeled his inner Bob Newhartonian chill, you likely know exactly what I’m about to talk about.

It’s a ten-minute clip that’s as hilarious as it is head-smacking, the host, Fox News “religion correspondent” Lauren Green accomplished what so many of us in the field cannot (by choice): a completely circular argument that failed to give viewers any coherent insight on Aslan’s latest book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s mostly because the only things that diffused the pressure Aslan felt in defending his scholarship against false accusations of hiding his faith were Green’s painfully inane questions.

Green wasn’t blazing any new Islamophobic ground in her interview. She was merely doing what Fox News has always done: smear Muslims. She was also trotting out the same tired stereotypes and prejudices that have long manifest themselves in representations of scholarship, literature, and, for the purposes of this space, art. The truth is, Christian and Muslim artists alike have long studied each other’s cultures and represented them in ways that pushed the envelope of conventional thought.

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Bridge Like Teen Spirit: From the West Coast to Qatar

They say time brings wisdom. But time alone can’t guarantee insight—it’s just a factor in the equation. You must also have the curiosity, vulnerability, expression, outreach, and collaboration that imbue experience with wisdom. The beauty of it is that none of those traits requires a minimum age.

Yet, far too often, we tend to look down our nose at youthful perspective as naïve idealism and nostalgic beauty. Yet underneath that stereotype is, in fact, an abundance of collective wisdom to be gleaned by those much older.

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Reza Aramesh on Bringing His Images of Violence to NYC Nightclubs

In his first U.S. exhibition, the Iranian-born, London-based artist Reza Aramesh has brought his highly political works into what would initially seem, to those unfamiliar with his work, to be unlikely venues. In co-organization with his local representative Leila Heller Gallery, Aramesh created site-specific installations of his works at five NYC nightclubs: ranging from Bobby Rossi’s members-only celebrity gastropub No. 8 in Chelsea to the edgy, hole-in-the-wall Bossa Nova Civic Club in Bushwick. On view since May 10, “12 Midnight” closes tomorrow.

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Vote4Zahra: A Virtual Candidate for Iran’s Elections (Part Two)

This is part two of our interview with Zahra’s Paradise author and co-creator Amir Soltani. Click here to read part one.

Aslan Media contributing writer Roxanne Rashedi recently had a chance to chat with Zahra writer and co-creator Amir Soltani about Zahra’s Paradise, her virtual presidential campaign and the issues and dialogues he hopes her character inspires:

Read moreVote4Zahra: A Virtual Candidate for Iran’s Elections (Part Two)