Art And Culture

Behrangi Thoughts Come Alive in Painting Exhibition

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Behrangi Thoughts Come Alive in Painting ExhibitionBehrangi Thoughts Come Alive in Painting Exhibition

A group painting exhibition curated by Arash Tanhai on the subject of one of the best Iranian writers of children’s stories, the late Samad Behrangi, is on view at Dena Gallery in Tehran.

The exhibition titled ‘Several Stories About a Man Who Joined the Sea With Waves of Aras,’ showcases artworks of different media by both veteran and young artists.

In a talk with Financial Tribune on the opening day, Tanhai elaborated on the collection and said, “I asked 10 young artists to create works thematizing Behrangi and also collected previous works done by prominent figures of art on the same issue, so the present collection is the result of both research and commissioned works.”

On his selection of artists, from illustrators to figurative and street artists, he said, “having a close frame of mind with that of Behrangi’s was important. I tried to choose people among the young generation whose ideology and concerns on social issues was similar to Behrangi’s.  He was not just a literati but a social figure as well.”

  Love of Rural Children

Behrangi (1939-1967) was born in Tabriz, East Azarbaijan Province. In 1957 he became a teacher and later earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Tabriz University.

Teaching Persian language in rural schools, he tried to familiarize villagers, especially children and youth, with books and libraries. He worked in the profession till his untimely death eleven years later.

Several original children’s stories on social issues, and a two volumes of Azari folktales (translated into Persian), established his reputation as a rising star among a new generation of writers.

Behrangi was a critique of both content and methodology of state-sponsored textbooks and curriculum of the time. He believed the entire educational system was outdated and alien to Iranian children, in particular rural kids.

  Mysterious Death

In 1968, the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults published his most famous book ‘The Little Black Fish’. The story is told through the voice of an old fish speaking to her 12,000 children and grandchildren. She describes the journey of a small black fish that leaves the safety of the local stream to venture into the big, bold world.

The book was widely considered to be a political allegory, and an anti-regime work, against the Pahlavi dynasty (1925 to 1979).

A month after the book was published, while he was traveling in a district near the western border of Iran, Behrangi was found drowned in Aras River.

Given his death in a remote area and his background in opposing the establishment, it is commonly believed that SAVAK, the shah’s security service, was behind his death.

Behrangi’s popularity continues after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. His stories, often illustrated by noted artists, have appeared regularly till today.

In April 2015, a new translation of ‘The Little Black Fish’ by Tiny Owl Publishing in the UK topped the David Cadji Newby’s top 10 children’s books list for The Guardian.

  ‘Human Landscapes’

Tanhai, 33, a graphic designer, has coined the phrase ‘Human Landscapes of This Land’. “There are many notable figures not among us anymore, but their thoughts are valuable and of interest to artists with different attitudes and styles to work on,” he said.

This is the third exhibition of the series he started two years ago, after ‘Of Today’s People’ on the late Iranian female poet Forough Farrokhzad in 2013 and ‘The World Champion’ on the national wrestling icon Gholamreza Takhti in 2014.

He said contemporary poet Nima Yooshij, who is considered father of modern Persian poetry, could be the subject of his next project.

Veteran graphic designer Ebrahim Haqiqi, 66, who has displayed one of his works at the exhibition, also attended the opening event. His work is an illustration of a cover of one of Behrangi’s books. “I had forgotten about this work since I did it many years ago, but I am happy that Tanhai has managed to find it,” he told this newspaper.

Haqiqi noted that he was not in touch with Behrangi personally at that time as the writer lived in Tabriz and he, in Tehran. “I illustrated the cover at the request of the publisher, but I do not have a copy of the book with me.”

Kianoush Gharibpour, Zartosht Rahimi, Yahya Rouydel, Nafir and Shoatir are among the young artists who have presented their works.

Works by veteran artists including Aydin Aghdashlou, Farshid Mesqali, Ardeshir Mohasses and Morteza Momayez are also on display.

The event runs till September 6 at No. 4, Sousan Alley, Qarani St., Taleqani junction.