WE ARE NOT SOLDIERS
My art form placed me in war-torn countries. Working with the locals, I tried to understand their perspective. A child is forcefully taken and forced into violence. His innocence is replaced by a rifle and he is asked to aim at the world. There is nothing more evil than turning a child into a soldier. The contradiction of innocence and pure violence contrast in the child. How can we even start to understand such savagery? I introduce you the capacity and the power to surmount this cruelty through my project called “We Are Not Soldiers”. “We Are Not Soldiers” was created with the humanitarian center Aprojet which offers education and protects ex-child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project was conceived to create a narrative demonstrating the fortitude of these children who have been forced into violence and their powers in overcoming such a nightmare. The series are large-format portraits of the children’s wrapped in the local fabric, the Pagnee.
Wrapping the children with the Pagnee fabric connects with a part of history that dates to colonization . Pagnee was created by Belgian colonists in efforts to discourage locals from adopting European styles. After decolonization, however, the Pagnee continued to be used in Central Africa as the main fabric for fashion. By wrapping the orphans in the Pagnee fabric, I wish to open a discussion of the intersection of culture and heritage in the DRC and the colonial violence that has led the country upon this unfortunate path.
As an artist, my primary aim is to create art that supports marginalized communities and individuals, by giving them a platform where their voices are heard. My art seeks to find strength, beauty, and humanity in the most difficult and ravaged places where hope has been lost. I have worked in Haiti, Afghanistan, South Thailand, Iraq, Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo, and in many more countries that struggle for liberty and freedom of speech; in order to create narratives and stories that seek to provide visibility for the people and support human rights. For the past decade, I have been creating works of art in relation to violence, humanitarian crises, and social upheavals. My work has gained international recognition through multiple awards and solo exhibitions, as well as a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal. I am presently banned from my own native country of Iran with a Fatwa (bounty) on my life. As a humanitarian artist, embracing the inherent risk associated with my art means that I am, and will always be, fully committed to creating visibility for the unheard voices of the world. I seek to find logic and humanity in the face of violence. Through my art, my life’s goal has
emerged to help those who struggle to see beyond the horror and adversity of their surroundings. My art shines a spotlight on human struggles in an attempt to evoke hope and unity.