MAXXI – National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome, 2014
By listening to my fellow storytellers, I realised that our testimony becomes more powerful when we are ten people, when we are one hundred people. Listening to their stories was a wonderful opportunity for me to understand how we can bear witness.
Helia Hamedani, project participant
Words like Helia’s, as well as of other participants in the project “My Iran”, show the potential of storytelling in addressing artworks produced in the context of a recent and controversial history, bringing to the surface painful memories like exile from one’s own country of birth, or the suffering and wounds caused by the war.
Photo by Giovanni Gervasi and Marco Riccardi
“My Iran”, a project curated by Marta Morelli (MAXXI Education Department) and Silvia Mascheroni with the Iranian community in Rome, involved a group of twelve citizens of Iranian origin in providing a multi-vocal perspective on the complex contents of the Unedited History. Iran 1960-2014 temporary exhibition.
They were involved in an intensive storytelling workshop, focusing on a selection of artists and artworks around which personal memories and insights took shape.
Their short stories were published in a brochure (see below); reduced versions were included in display alongside the more traditional art-historical captions; video interviews of participants were shown on a screen at the end of the exhibition.
The integral texts of the twelve stories are published, both in Italian and in English, in the exhibition brochure My Iran.
Adolescent volunteers lined up to serve their country, the wounded and the martyrs fallen on the yellowish sand of the trenches, collapsing buildings set up as makeshift hospitals… The photographs of Bahman Jalali take me back to the 1980s, to the long afternoons waiting for the children’s television program with the announcer’s enthusiastic voice and music that resembled a war march. My son once asked me: ‘Mom, is there a way to cancel a piece of our memory so that we can forget the things that hurt?’
A few years after the Revolution, while writing to my parents, I learned that the name of our street in Tehran was no longer ‘West Hoopoe Street’, but now ‘Martyr Shafapei Street’: the name of a young boy who in my memories played football, killed during the Iran–Iraq War.
The hoopoe had taken flight, and with it a small universe.
I wonder what I would have done had I remained in Iran to study film, as I had always wished.
In a society at the limits of a paradox, where definitions are black and white and shades of grey often inexistent, I admire her sensitivity and courageous attempt to learn about the other by overcoming many barriers.
I was six years old and I knew the rules of the game: after the siren you shouldn’t use the elevator. My adventure was to run in the darkness toward the stairs, speaking in hushed tones, and with the wailing sirens in my ears reach the parking lot, our shelter.
I continue to tell stories and tales and I don’t know which ones are real and which are manipulated or censored by my conscience. I often feel I am exaggerating, letting myself be taken in by the theatrical pleasure of telling lies, as strange and impossible as they may seem even to me. Because I don’t want to believe that the war was real, so close and so painful.