All Faces of Forough: an Iconographic Report

Arguably one of the most influential female poets of the twentieth century, Forough was a controversial modernist poet and an iconoclast. Born in Tehran in 1935, married at age sixteen and divorced tow years later,  she wrote and published The Captive in 1955, her debut volume contained mediocre sentimental poems on love, sorrow, and suffering. It was with her next volume, Rebirth, that the true feminine spirit of Forough and her poetic might was revealed to the literary world of the time.

Forough’s controversial poetry with strong feminine voice became the focus of negative attention and open disapproval. She not only contributed to the modernization of Persian poetry, but also to the evolution of Iranian popular culture. Her outstanding lucidity and her courage in going beyond cultural taboos provided her poetry with an inimitable originality. She benefited from the revolutionary circumstances of Iranian social reconstruction of 1940s and afterward to experiment with the idea of a redefinition of boundaries posed by tradition. Her poems are both emotionally and intellectually rich and they leave readers impressed with her ability to think her feelings and her passion in feeling deeply and truthfully. These unique attributes make her poetry full of thoughtful messages. Her use of language is original and aesthetic in the sense that she is able to create personal expressions. In Febuary, 1967 Forough died in a car accident at age thirty-two.

A Dweller of Nowadays: An Iconographic Report

79 years after her birth, an exhibition was held in Tehran in January 2014 to present the portraits of Forough made by a number of veteran and emerging artists,  each of which has focused on a particular aspect of the poet’s character.

A Dweller of Nowadays is curated by graphic designer Arash Tanhai. “I’ve always been concerned with discussing prominent cultural figures of contemporary Iran. I’d designed posters for seven contemporary artists including Forough for my BA thesis. The experience encouraged me to return to Forough – now as a curator,” Tanhai says.

The exhibition is consisted of two types of works, he adds. The portraits of Forough that have  already been created by eminent artists like Morteza Momayez, Ardeshir Mohasses, Behrouz Golzari, Giti Novin, Ebrahim Haghighi, Ali Khosravi, and Azadeh Akhlaghi; and the works specifically ordered for the exhibition.

Forough Farrokhzad has been compared, the exhibition’s manifesto asserts, with the American Merilyn Monroe. Elaborating on the comparison, Tanhai remarks, “Merylin Monroe’s image has been illustrated and symbolized more than any other woman among American visual artists. I  also wanted to symbolize a woman who has been illustrated more than any other figure among Iranian contemporary artists… Unlike Monroe, the prominence of Forough does not rely on her feminine beauty or its reinforcement through Hollywood and mass media, but on her manifestation of freedom of thought as a free woman. Standing on the point of equilibrium between physical and intellectual appeal as a free human being, Forough’s image is never to be reduced to a commodity.”

The success of this program “as the most visited exhibition of the year” shows that Forough is still an unrivaled star in the sky of modernist Persian Poetry.

 You can take a virtual tour to A Dweller of Nowadays here.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF PanArt
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Azadeh Qahvei

Azadeh Qahvei

holds a BA in English Literature and an MA in Indian Studies from the University of Tehran. Since her graduation, she has been working as a researcher and translator in wide-ranging fields of studies from peace and regional studies to literary and art criticism.
Azadeh Qahvei

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