“If you could never return home, what would you do and where would you go if you were granted just one minute to go back there?”
This question is the starting point for Iranian photographer and artist Farhad Berahman’s artwork Shahre Farang, which explores memories of home of Iranian asylum seekers living in the UK.
Berahman collaborated with twenty Iranian asylum seekers, asking them to describe places they would re-visit if they would go back to Iran for one last time. These memories were then passed on to a network of photographers based in Iran, who were tasked with creating photographic interpretations of these memories.
Berahman’s custom-made sculpture is a unique design based on a traditional Shahre Farang. A Shahre Farang is an Iranian version of a portable peep box traditionally taken around the country by wandering storytellers, showing images of European cities as a form of exotic entertainment.
Berahman has built a contemporary version of the box for the UK audiences, where three viewing lenses are used to invite visitors to see a moving display of back lit images.
The images have a wonderful cinematic sense to them as ‘freeze frames’ of people’s memories. It is a work which does not only speak of one specific cultural context but more importantly asks viewers to consider how personal memories of home, of far off cultures and of the past are filtered through photography. As an interactive artistic experience, Shahre Farang transports viewers to another place and time.
Berahman’s work will be presented at the b-side Outpost project space on Portland, Dorset during Refugee Week (17-22nd June), leading to its appearance at Bournemouth University’s annual Festival of Learning in July 8th. The project will also be part of the 4th national Platforma Festival taking place in Newcastle and across the North East, between 19-28th October 2017.
Image of ‘Shahre Farang’ courtesy of b-side
On July the 8th, Bournemouth University’s Festival of Learning will also host two Counterpoints Arts’ commissions.
Alketa Xhafa Mripa presents her Refugees Welcome installation, comprising of a Luton tail lift van – a potent symbol representing refugees crossing borders. The interior of the van is revamped to resemble a ‘living room’ with soft furnishings, visuals and a neon ‘hope’ sign evoking the ‘British Welcome’. The van and its contents act as a prompt for conversations with visitors, extending the gesture of ‘fancy a tea with a refugee’. The mix of agitprop, site-specific happening, installation and live encounter engages with current shifts in attitudes to ‘welcome’. Visitors are asked to leave their thoughts in the comments book, where stories will be shared via social media and local radio.
Richard deDomenici’s Shed Your Fears is a non-denominational, non-hierarchical booth, into which two people get to confess their fears to each other, privately, anonymously and safely. Designed as a response to recent sociopolitical upheavals, the piece invites participating audiences to share their innermost fears, and by sharing them, hopefully transcend them, to the point where they can also share hopes and dreams.
Both Refugees Welcome and Shed Your Fears are on a tour around the country.