Scheherazade's Textile

Negin Ehtesabian (2016-21)

This is a project about Iran’s history and culture. How fabulous and ornamental this cloth looks like from a certain distance, sutable for a decorative piece, and how horrifying it might really look like up close! reading the stories: all the terrors and cruelty in the history, all the bitterness and unfairness of the reality they tried to hide behind art and spirituality.

I called it Scheherazade's Textile (Shahrzad in the original Persian name) because it is what a contemporary Scheherazade (The mythical heroine of 1001 Nights) would have shown us.

She is also the symbol of nonviolent resistance and the idea of trying to understand and tolerate each other through talking, cultural exchange and making dialogues rather than each part fighting and trying to destroy and defeat the other one. So that is what I think we need to learn the most in today's world, and always!

I started working on the cloth in 2016 and developed it until 2021, now I'm mankind a video to be projected on the curtain.


 

For the concept, I was also inspired by Naqqali, the traditional form of storytelling in Iranian culture, which is a traditional form of theater in Iran; a dramatic monologue performance of storytelling; They used to paint the events of a story on a single piece of cloth, combined all together and the storyteller would have pointed to the part of the image matching the part of the story he was performing.

All the scenes blend together and became one big piece of painting that might not make any sense as a whole, looking like total chaos or might have seen as a decorative piece usually hanged in the cafes or even painted on the wall; or the portable ones were being rolled when the storyteller was traveling place by place for his shows.

Also in addition to Persian literature, there were always referring to the Iranian visual culture, local traditions, and folk music. These storytellers were entertainers and also important bearers of Persian literature and culture while encouraging national cohesion and cultural pride. Especially because that time a majority of people could not read and write and verbal culture was one of the few ways to learn about their heritage generation by generation.

So, these days, with the increased number of new generations who aren’t used to read and prefer to learn via videos and audios or cartoons rather than reading a text, visual communication has become more important in culture and education again, and this is my Naqqali, using storytelling curtain, combined with video.

The sound effect I'm using on the video is a mixture of the Persian traditional theater (Naqqali)'s drums and bells and a performance on the known pop music by Fereydoon Farrokhzad, singing about hope and uniting in the darkest time, called “The Sad Easterner” encouraging people to stay together and fight the darkness and not let their Sun die.

***Read about Shahrzad story bellow

shahrzad.jpg

****Scheherazade (Shahrzad) in 1001 nights’ stories, who rescues people from the king’s oppression by only talking to him, telling stories for 1001 nights.  

The story is that the king (Shahryar) found out that his first wife was unfaithful to him. He went mad and killed her.

Afterward, every night he married a virgin and killed her before sunrise so she had no time to cheat on him. He did this for years, and his people were frustrated by hiding their daughters and asked for justice from Vizier (minister).

Shahrzad is the Vizier’s smart, beautiful daughter who, against her father’s wishes, decided to help the people and cure the king by only talking to him (perhaps one of the first times ever in history that is about psychotherapy!)

She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart. She knew philosophy and science, art and literature.

She was wise and polite and had a beautiful voice.

She voluntarily marries the king, and on the first night, right after consummating the marriage, she makes an excuse to start telling a story. The king wants to kill her before sunrise, but he is so curious about the rest of the story, which is not finished yet. It is the first time he is so interested in something, the sun is already up and he has to go and get on with the king’s business! So he let Shahrzad live another day so he could hear the rest of the story the night after.

But Shahrzad keep rolling from a story to another one every night, leaving the story unfinished in the morning and the king had to let her live so he could hear the rest of the story the night after.

These are 1001 nights’ stories that each one has a message for the king, which, besides amusing him, teaches him about life and people, curing the king’s inner pain little by little, night after night. After all these nights he is finally in inner peace and in love with Shahrzad!

So the talented, wise Shahrzad could rescue many women, only by telling stories,

and this is also maybe the first time ever whom someone tried “nonviolent resistance” defeating the oppression. So she is a real myth or a role model!