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Pray we would be safe
Nasser Palangi exhibit: "Women During the Iran and Iraq War"


Sanaz Fotouhi
November 10, 2006

I always thought if Freud’s theory on dreams being resonances, wishes and fears, of our day lives reflected in our sleep, was actually a true theory. A couple of days ago I woke up shivering from a nightmare in which I was being chased by Iraqi soldiers who were pointing their guns at my family.

We managed to escape but I woke up with vivid images in my head and felt a fear that I had not felt since the Iran and Iraq war days. I am from Iran and I am what back in Iran they call a child of revolution and war, born on the brink of the revolution and just as the war had started.

So, I spent the first six or so years of my life growing up in warring Iran in a hot-headed society who had just overthrown the Shah several years before. Even though I was very young during the war, the memories of it are fresh in my head. I remember the nights in Tehran when the red alarm was sounded and we had to rush into the basement, the strongest part of the house so that if the house did actually get hit we would survive. We would hear explosion sounds nearby and pray that we would be safe.

We would stay there until they sounded the white alarm, at the sound of which we would go safely into our beds in rooms with windows covered with thick blankets and the glass covered with tape so that if the windows did shatter they would not fall. In the morning we would drive around to see the evidence of destructed houses. My mom would quickly take me into the car at the sight of wailing family members.

Even then, Tehran was relatively safe compared to the cities in the South of Iran which were taken over completely by the Iraqis. We had never seen the face of an Iraqi soldier while in those cities, like Khorramshahr, people were chased out of their houses by the occupying Iraqi soldiers.

Even though the war was about twenty years ago, the memories of it are still vivid in the lives of those who had lived through it. In my case, I was too young to remember everything but recently those long forgotten memories were refreshed by an art exhibition

Nasser Palangi entitled Women During the Iran and Iraq War which was exhibited at the Australian National University's Foyer Gallery. Nasser, who is an Iranian/Australian artist who had recorded the events of the front line by painting and sketching them, exhibited large scale emotive pieces which really reflected the agony in the women’s faces. He has several thousands of such drawing and they are indeed very moving and effective in reminding people of the destruction and calamities of war.

Palangi's innovative method of large scaling the images heightened the feelings and expression of the subjects. I spoke to several people at the opening about their reaction to the exhibition. Yes, they were really moved by the works, but could they really feel those scenes, with their heart and soul, and in their bones? No most claimed.

I guess then the dream that I had several days after the exhibition was indeed a resonance of those fears that I had felt as a child in my bones, reflected, still and for the rest of my life to come, in my dream.

I hope that one day, world civilizations would understand the irony in trying to prove themselves by war, so that the children of the future grow up without that in word their mental dictionary. Meanwhile, all we could do as responsible individuals is to advocate education to create mentally and physically healthy individuals who will be our messengers of peace.

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