Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yek Shamebh / Final Day of Fadjr / Second Opposition Demonstration

A photocomposite, by Babek Kazemi

1) The internet connection is very slow at the hotel, so I was up until 4am last night, blogging. I get up at 9:30, a little bleary.

2) With N., I go back to the gallery in the north of the city. This time, the owner is there. She explains the lack of signage, and the unmarked door - they have to operate almost invisibly. They have been raided before, and fear it may happen again. Many of the artworks being made in Iran now cannot be displayed here - certainly not openly. She shows me more work - primarily photographic. Impressive, powerful works. She also shows me a series of original prints from the 19th century - a set of photos from the royal court of the Shah. This will be her next show.

Beside the gallery's door

I buy two pieces - the face of the woman (a piece I have added in photos on yesterday's entry), by Estabragh Mosavi Fard, and a gift-bearing Micky Mouse superimposed on a barren Iranian landscape, with smoke from a bomb drifting overhead, by Babak Kazemi. I love them. I also take the gallery's information, and hope I can connect them with a Toronto-based curator. If I return here, the curator wants to take me on an art-tour of Tehran. It is a wonderful morning spent with lovely people.

3) We return the the hotel. Our taxi driver - a powerfully built man - is openly furious about the regime. He will be taking the afternoon off to march in the demonstration. On the drive back south, he points out the masses of motorcyle-driving Basij militia that are gathering. We see dozens and dozens of men on motorcycles by the side of the road - some in full riot gear (police), some in a mix of civilian and military gear (Basij). We see about one hundred men, waiting. We are passed at one point by at least twenty motorcycles bearing armed men. The taxi driver scoffs at them - saying they are not strong men, these Basij. He apologizes for the impression his country makes on me. He says he just wants to relax - he went outside Iran once for six months on a fake passport, and this was the only time he has ever been able to relax. He wants to be able to go to a disco. He wants to be able to hold his girlfriend's hand on the street. As we pay, he holds up the banknote with Khomeini on it, and hits the Ayatollah's face repeatedly, saying "I hate him, I hate him, I hate him". We shake hands. I wish him luck, and I don't think I have ever meant this so much.

4) Back at the hotel, I lunch with N., then begin to pack. Tomorrow, I go to Isfahan for an overnight visit. Then back to Tehran for dinner with N. and a Canadian Iranian friend, and then I will begin the trek back to Canada, a man with eyes opened wider. But still tonight - there is the final ceremony, and the demonstration, which, as I write this, will have begun.

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