In the last two months, within a trans-border and trans-generational group, we have read and discussed the writings of radical feminist, Zandakht Shirazi. Now we are excited to share our work-in-progress with you. We invite you to join us in one of the performances listed below, where we will read a re-mixed text of Zandakht's writings, followed by a discussion.
In 1928, thirty-five years before Iranian women gained the right to vote, in a poem published in Habl al-Matin, a 19-year-old woman asked:
We have feelings and zeal more than men
Why shouldn’t women have the right to be representatives in the Parliament?
She was Fakhr al-Muluk Zandpour, who had been writing essays and poems since her early-teens; and publishing her work in respected journals such as Sur-e Esrafil, Habl al-Matin, Estakhr, and The Women’s World, first under the penname Zand-dokht (daughter of Zand), and then Zandokht (daughter of a woman). In "The Woman I Want," Gita Hashemi remixes Zandokht’s poems, essays, letters, and speeches, and arranges them for a multi-voice reading to introduce us, from across nine decades, to a history that is largely left unsaid or been marginalized in the dominant narratives.
Zandakht's efforts to prove and assert her rights as a woman are an example of the activism of women of her generation, and foretells the efforts and achievements of future generations. Informed by the dynamism and continuity of issues in the history of Iranian women's movement, "The Woman I Want" is a premise for thinking about the personal, political, and poetic aspects of women's individual and social struggles. Reaching across years and generations, and motivated by their diverse but interconnected experiences, the women of our group lend their voices to Zandokht to bring her voice to you.
The splendour of every nation is from the splendour of women
Our efforts are the basis of everything.
This is not a secret, it is well clear,
How beautiful is a woman's work, her effort.
Gita Hashemi, born in Shiraz, Iran, has been working for over thirty-five years in installation, performance art, digital and net art, text and image, live and embodied writing, and also in curating and publishing. Her multi-platform and transdisciplinary projects focus on marginal narratives and trace their influence in contemporary contexts. Many of her projects foreground women’s narratives. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, USA, Mexico, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Serbia, Cuba, Argentina, Palestine, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Spain, Romania, Croatia, Austria, Thailand, Japan, Armenia, and Norway. Hashemi taught visual and digital arts and cultural studies at York University and University of Toronto until 2010. Many of her projects have received funding from Canadian art councils and won awards. Most recently, in 2017, her live-streamed embodied calligraphy project Grounding received the Ontario Association of Art Galleries’ award for the best exhibition of the year. One of her recent projects, Emergent (BarAyandegan) includes a series of audio portraits of women in their own voices, available on different networks. She is currently working on a research-based project titled “Archive Iran: Encounters with a Century.” She believes, “The personal is poetic, the poetic is political, the political is personal.”
Azam Eskandar, born in Tehran, Iran, is a graduate in physical education from Tehran University. She was the captain of the first Iranian women’s basketball team and a member of the first women’s national volleyball team that participated in international competitions. She was also the first woman who, being married and a mother, entered professional sports, and opened the way for other women to participate. Azam Eskandar taught at schools and universities and coached women’s basketball and volleyball teams for many years. With Anūshīravān Ruhānī and Mahrū Nunahālī, she produced and choreographed “Morning Exercises” that were practiced in schools across Iran. Alongside sports, she was also active in arts and social projects. At eighty-two, she is still active in different endeavours and spends her time learning new skills and activities that contribute to physical wellness and spiritual growth. She has a daughter and a son and two grandchildren who are studying in college.
Fareegis, born in Shiraz, Iran, is sixty years old and is from Shiraz, Iran, where she lives with her son and spouse. Her education in pure mathematics came to a halt after she obtained a bachelor’s degree from Shiraz University. In her forties, she initiated a mobile children’s bookshop and storytelling program in daycares and elementary schools. Today she has an established and reputable bookstore and conducts online and in-person workshops in reading with infants, toddlers, and young adults for parents and educators. She also writes reviews of children’s books. Fareegis is also an experienced doll and puppet maker and works with modeling clay, and she has organized many charity craft shows to support young women’s education. In recent years, aiming to train a younger generation in methodologies of reading with children, she has founded a young adult group that collaboratively reads, performs, and records children’s books. The group has produced a CD series and has four more in production. She is actively training a new generation to engage in and sustain the book culture.
Leila Moslemi Mehni, born in Kerman, Iran, is a first-year Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto's Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. Her main focus is on contemporary Iranian art and history. She has worked as an assistant curator in Iran's Iranian National Museum while she was completing her major research project. Also, she has worked at the Sheikh Faisal Museum in Qatar and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
Marjan Moosavi, born in Mashhad, is the lecturer of Persian Studies at the University of Maryland. She holds a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, where she trained in the theory and craft of theatre-making, dramaturgy, and diasporic performances. She is the author of several scholarly publications and has served as a faculty member at the University of Toronto, York University and Parand Azad University (Iran). Marjan is the Founder and Principal Investigator of the First Digital Guide to Theater of the Middle East. Recent collaborations include those with Nowadays Theatre (Toronto) and thetheatretimes.com. She appreciates the playfulness of her transnational living and is thrilled to be one of the voices of Zandokht.
Ghazal Partou, born in Ghaemshahr, Iran, is an actress and an Iranian- Canadian multidisciplinary artist. Ghazal is the recipient of Toronto Arts Foundation’s 2015 TELUS Newcomer Artist Award, Persbook Contemporary Art Award, and the National Sculpture Biennial Award in Tehran. Since moving to Canada, Ghazal has been active in more than 20 art projects as an actor, creative director, Idea developer, and designer. These days, her effort is to find the core meanings of being alive in her own life and create interactive projects to share her unique experiences with the audience.
Azadeh Pirazimian, born in Rasht, Iran, is an Iranian-Canadian multidisciplinary artist and art educator based in Toronto. She holds a BA in painting and a MA in visual communication from Iran. Azadeh has exhibited her works at numerous art galleries in Iran, Canada (Toronto and Montreal), and recently in Europe. Since moving to Canada in 2015, she has been involved in several plays as an actress and has worked as an assistant artist in several mural projects across GTA. Meanwhile, she has been an art educator in several art schools and organizations. Right now, Azadeh is working full-time on her most recent project, which is a collection of drawings and videos at her studio in downtown Toronto.