Finally the mad tyrant is dead.
I made this drawing on my IPAD back in August and expected his end then.
One thing about this is that such a violent end is not a good start for a new regime. Take my word for it, when a regime ends with violence another violent regime that goes from one revolutionary extreme to another takes over.
What’s more it is perhaps time to question all those Western regimes that helped such a vermin stay in power for so long, I mean it is one thing for the British PM to remind us all of the tragic death of PC Ivan Fletcher and the Lockerbie bombings and another when not so long ago we are remind that Tony Blair went off to Libya shaking the hand of this madman.
I’ve spent the last few days in a family reunion. You know in my “about page” I mentioned that I could write a book about all the things that I’ve experienced. A lot of it is down to my family. Many of the stories are tragic so I’m not sure if I do want to reveal them. One thing I will reveal here is that the old man in this picture is my maternal Grand Father. He is surrounded by his two daughters and his son on the far left. I saw my aunt the one on the left (the only survivor from that family). My Grand Father was a rich man but his wealth was completely plundered. We only grew to share the tragedies, the family legends, the sorrows and perhaps some of the good genes as well as the bad ones!
Before the 1979 Iranian revolution the oil rich city of Abadan where the main refinery plant pumped oil and money, an affluent class of Iranians spanned their wings and lived a stylish life style. First by the influence of the British then by a community of middle class professionals the local culture had changed. Kids with western cloth Rayban sunglasses would carry towels and swimming gear and be off to the nearest oil company club.
Perhaps extinct today, he is an unsung hero. He was the man who would cheer the place up, get a Bandari drum beat out of plank of wood. Make his own flute out of a bamboo shoot.
Abadan is a city in the South of Iran. There was a joyful layback culture about the place. Abadan had been under British influence for many years, it is where the main oil refinery was the one that produced the oil for the British navy during the second world war and powered the Empire’s economy.
When the British left, Iranian Oil workers took over and adopted a comfortable Western life style of Clubs, Swimming pools and leisure.
There was a pool of talent in that city. The local music which has a catchy drum base has its root in the music of Sailors who traveled there from the rest of the world, from places like Middle East, Africa, Portugal and it is still one of the most popular forms of music.
The stereotype of an Abadani is someone who would not be seen dead without his Ray Band Sun glasses. He also had a tendency to exaggerate his successes, which is why I doodled this cartoon as homage to that fun-loving unsung hero giving him a monument and why the caption reads Thanks for saving the Universe!
May he rest in peace!
When I was a kid I was fortunate enough to be awarded this comic book titled “Azemat-e Baazyaafteh” (“Regained Grandeur”) by my school. It is perhaps now a collector’s item as it was not sold in shops and I doubt if many copies have survived in Iran. Irrespective of your views on the late king, it is a fun book to read.
It just shows that whilst other kids read Superman and Batman comics, we were being nurtured on the milk of politics from an early . I recently saw an exhibition of Soviet Propaganda posters in Tate Modern, London and it was great. It is a shame that with our regular regime change, we destroy a lot of history but If someone ever opens a Museum of Iranian Propaganda in Iran, I might be tempted to donate this book after I’m dead. Although looking back I also see that age despite some social problems as a golden age for the Iranian people and certainly not all was Propaganda now that many of us are older, wiser and without a country!
Note ( Published back in 2008, but I did not back-date the blog as it is still interesting and the painting are available in the National Portrait Gallery in London Trafalgar SQ).
The Lure of the East exhibition at Tate Britain that was showing paintings made by British artists of the ‘Orient’ (4th June – 31st August 2008).
In this context ‘Orient’ meant those parts of the eastern Mediterranean world, which could be accessed relatively easy, particularly after the development of steamboat and rail travel in the 1830s: Egypt, Palestine and Turkey but predominantly Muslim world that was under the Turkish Ottoman Empire coming up to our own Iranian doorstep.
According to the exhibition outline in 1970s the Palestinian-American academic Edward Said published his treatise on Orientalism, initiating a global debate over Western representations of the Middle East. For many, such representations now appeared to be a sequence of fictions serving the West’s desire for superiority and control over the East.
This debate resonates today as it did 30 years ago. The exhibition was divided under six different themes:
The Orientalist Portrait
Before 1830s private travel to Middle East for a purpose other than warfare and diplomacy was rare. Western travellers and residents assumed ‘Oriental costume’ for various reasons. Some felt safer moving incognito amongst the locals, some enjoyed the fancy dress element and there were those who had a committed solidarity with the culture of the locals.
Amongst these, there is the portrait of Robert Shirley and his Teresia Shirley. Robert as an envoy of Shah Abbas to the courts of Europe is wearing an impressive Persian court costume and carrying what seems to be the official diplomatic letter from Shah Abbas she is holding a pistol and pocket watch symbols of technologies Europe was providing to Persia. Teresia was a Circassian lady; Circassian women were famous for their unusual beauty, spirited and elegant and this reputation dated back to Ottoman Empire when they were taken as slave concubines in Sultan’s Harems.
There is also the portrait of James Silk Buckingham and his wife holding hands.
Buckingham was a journalist, who was an advocate of social reform such as an end into flogging used in arms forces, abolition of press-gang.
The Harem and Home
The design of domestic architecture in the Middle East was one of the most consistent motifs in British Orientalist paining.
The artists had a concern that the Orient as seen as a static world was changing under the influence of European design and town planning in places such as Egypt.
Genre and Gender
Genre painting, the depiction of everyday life, was fundamental to 19th century British art. Through such images British society was able to analyse itself, especially to reflect upon the little dramas of domestic life. But in the Middle East, so British artists complained, they felt excluded from local family life and so were compelled either to imagine life in the harem, or to focus instead upon the male-dominated public spaces of the cities they visited.
The Harem was the defining symbol of the Orient for Western Europeans. The Western view was that women were kept as chattels, imprisoned in segregated spaces, the slaves or sex-toys of their masters.
Later treatments of the Harem theme adopted less violent but still eroticised tone, imagining the Harem as a place of refined female sensuality.
Amongst these is a painting titles Leila by Frank Dicksee that shows an image of a very seductive beauty from the story of Leila and Majnun. The beauty that drove her cousin Qays mad with desire.
The Holy city
Many British travellers felt that, as Christians, they had a personal stake in the Middle East. The name of Jerusalem, a city scared to Christians, Jews and Muslims, had long been embedded in British religious, literary and political life as the symbol of a longed-for destination imbued with Biblical antiquity.
But for most artists the city was disappointingly modern.
As the balance of population of Jerusalem shifted towards a Jewish majority in the 19th Century, British visitors often looked towards the city’s Jewish communities for the future redevelopment of Palestine. An interest in Jewish life, initially sparked by the connection to the culture in which Jesus Christ had lived, often grew into a fascination with Jewish tradition for its own sake.
British artists also admired Islamic culture on its own terms.
Frequent subjects were daily prayers in the great mosques, the gathering for the annual pilgrimage of Mecca and the life long study of Quran.
The Orient in Perspective
These were mainly landscape images capturing the remarkable colours and shadows of deserts and wilderness at dawn and dusk.
The desert landscapes appearing as not so dangerous but beautiful wilderness containing places resonant with the ebb and flow of civilizations, and where night brought a particular beauty special to the region.