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Hand of Fatima
Farideh Zariv's collection of hands


Sanaz Fotouhi
October 21, 2006

Farideh Zariv, a Canberra-based Iranian-Australian artist, was the first ever Muslim woman to exhibit in Iziko Bo-kaap Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. Farideh arrived in Australia with her husband and children in 2001 on a distinguished talent visa, which is a rare subclass of visa issued to highly achieved artists and sportsmen. Farideh has had formal training in the Arts with a degree in Fine Arts and one in Graphics.

Currently she is continuing her education at the Australian National University doing a Master of Arts in Fine Arts focusing on Persian traditional patterns. She has been a practicing artist for nearly twenty years and has exhibited globally in America, Asia, Europe, Australia and recently Africa.

Farideh’s latest series of works is entitled ‘Hand of Fatima’ which is a series of artworks accompanied by a collection of hands. These antique and unique hand sculptures, of which she owns about eighty, are made of metal and have traditional Islamic patterns and calligraphy engraved on them. The hands, apart from being aesthetically pleasing, are symbolically important within the Islamic tradition, holding an iconic status.

Representing the hand of Fatima, who is the daughter of the prophet Mohammad, these hands have become to mean the same thing to Muslims as say hand of Mary in Christianity. However, despite fundamental Islamic belief that representation of human figures does not uphold a positive image, these hands have become so integrated with Islam and the culture within which they appear that the distinction between that culture and religion has been erased. Thus, the hand has been accepted and has become a symbol of peace, truthfulness and even protection.

Farideh herself says ‘I believe that each hand has a message for human kind. The Hand of Fatima is a symbol of that message, carrying spiritual and mystical meaning. This hand could be a hand of light, showing humankind the way to brightness and peace. It could also be a hand which directs human attention to inner spirituality.’ Indeed the titles of each of her art works, such as ‘He who has patience and who is content possesses much ability’ or ‘Generosity is a quality of the people of Paradise,’ also carries a message for the viewer.

Recently in June, this series of works which was exhibited locally at the Canberra at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery in 2005, was invited to be exhibited at the Iziko Bo-kaap Museum in Cape Town in South Africa. As the first ever Muslim woman exhibiting at that Museum, Farideh’s exhibition was received with much enthusiasm and attention by the public.

In fact, Dr. D’Arcy a South African reviewer of her work, credited her with having gained an iconic state herself through this exhibition. Farideh says that her interest in these iconic and traditional patterns and images is because an artist should always look back to the tradition and culture from where he or she has come from. She says ‘it is our duty to ensure that those icons and elements of our past culture continue to live through us for the future generation in a language for the modern world.’ >>> Photos

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Sanaz Fotouhi



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