Shahrzad's Curtain/ A Visual Storytelling

This is a project about Iran’s history. How gorgeous and ornamental this piece looks from a certain distance, like a decorative cloth in a corner to be proud of, and how horrifying it really is from up close: all the terrors and cruelty in the history, all the bitterness in the reality. I called it Shahrzad’s curtain because it is what Shahrzad (The mythical character of 1001 Nights) would show us in visual storytelling.  

I was inspired by Naqqali, the traditional form of storytelling in Iranian culture, which was being shown for people as a form of theater/ a kind of dramatic performance; they used to paint all the events in the story, and the storyteller would point to the right image at the right time in the story. All the scenes blend together as one big piece of painting and it was usually rolled to be easy to carry for the storyteller who usually traveled place by place for his/her 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 common people could not read and write and storytelling was one of the few ways to learn about their cultural heritage generation by generation.

So, these days, with the increased number of new generations who don’t use to read and are more comfortable watching videos (watching images and listening to stories) it seems we are going to have quite a similar time in the way we collaborate.

***Read about Shahrzad story bellow


****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!