Friday, February 10, 2006

When I was at school, the ten day celebration of the revolution was always very exciting. The best thing about it was that this was one of the very few occasions when people could be happy openly and not feel like they were acting un-Islamic (on account of Islam being a religion all about seriousness as we were told).
On these ten days a lot of great and fun things happened and you could get into different groups that did plays or sang revolutionary songs in front of the whole school or made wall mounted newspapers that would be used to decorate the school corridors. But my favourite thing to do was making maquettes. You would choose a scene from the revolution and you would make it into a three-dimensional model. It was great fun and every year I would get together with a few friends and we would make one of these.

The customary thing to do at our school was to draw the people on paper and then cut them out and stand them up on the base. But that year my mum had a great idea ‘Why not use chick peas for women’s heads?’ she said and took a chick pea and put two tiny dots on either sides of the beaklike part. Then we made a piece of wrapping paper into a cone shape and mounted the little chickpea head on the top and it looked like a chadored woman. It was a great idea but I was a bit worried about using them at first because I thought our religious studies teacher (that was also in charge of revolutionary activities) would get all funny about the fact that instead of wearing black chadors, the women in our demonstration were accessorizing with all sorts of different colour wrapping papers. At the end I gave in though because they just looked too good.
My friends and I spent a few days working very hard on our maquette and it was starting to look really great. When they left for their homes on the last day before it needed to be handed in, there was still a lot of work to be done and I stayed up half the night working on it.
On the morning we brought it in to school, all the kids gathered around us and we were told over and over again that our maquette was without a doubt the best one in school.
The best thing was that our religious studies teacher was absolutely delighted by the chickpea women. In fact she loved our maquette so much that she hugged us all and told us how proud of us she was.

In one of the breaks on that same day, our teacher came running up to us with a massive grin on her face. She said there was a national school art on revolution (or something like that) competition and she was going to enter our maquette in it. She said she had not said anything about it before because she had not thought that we being so young could come up with anything that could be entered in that competition but after she had seen our work, she had loved it so much that had called the organisers and had arranged to go there that day with our maquette.
I’m sure you can imagine how excited we got about this. And the best thing was that she said in a few days she would go to that place again and would take us with her so we could see our work exhibited in the gallery along with the other entries.
A few days past and we kept pestering our teacher about when she was going to take us to the exhibition place. But for some reason she was having problems organising the trip. At the end on the last day (on this day actually 21 Bahman 10th February), the day before the national holiday for the victory of revolution, our teacher finally managed to get the permission from school and hire a minibus to take us to the exhibition.
We knew we hadn’t won anything (because right from the start our teacher had made it clear that we had no chance since the older girls and boys from art schools, had made some really great things) but I still couldn’t help imagining that when we got there, there would be people nudging each other and saying, ‘Look it’s those girls that made that amazing maquette.’
‘Which one?’
‘You know, the chickpeas.’
‘Really? That’s fantastic! Why they are so young as well. I can’t believe it.’
‘Yes they are very talented.’

The exhibition place was nothing like I had imagined. It was a huge old house in the middle of a big garden and it was very spooky because apart from us four and our teacher there was no one else around.
Inside the house, there was artwork everywhere. There were paintings, sculptures and maquettes all over the place. Some of the maquettes were placed on tables and platforms but there were so many of them that some had just been left on the floor.
You could tell we were all very disappointed and quite shocked by the state we had found this place in but we all made out as if nothing was wrong and set out on the task of finding our beloved maquette that we had so lovingly made.
At first we went around together but the place was so big that we thought we would cover more ground if we were to split up so we each went our separate way. I was quite wary of doing that because a lot of the artwork there depicted scenes with people dying and a lot of blood and that sort of thing made me very uncomfortable.
In the second room I went to, behind all the maquettes I saw a bed like thing with a pair of boots sticking out of the end. I thought great, this is probably the person that is supposed to be manning the exhibition and he’s fallen asleep. So I went closer to see what the story was and if maybe there was a sort of order to this place that he knew about. I could not see the man because his whole body had been covered with a white sheet that had been drenched in something red where it was touching his face. It was either that this was a life size model of a dead body with its face blown off or this creepy house actually belonged to an Iranian version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, what’s for sure is that this was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen in my life. Inside I was screaming but no sound was coming out. Finally when I pulled myself together I ran out of the room as fast as I could and then glued myself to the first girl I could find.
We looked and looked but we couldn’t find our maquette. At the end our teacher said we had to leave it and go back because it was getting late.
On our way out as we were going down the last flight of stairs, suddenly one of the girls said, ‘Oh my god, look.’ So we all looked down and there it was. Our beloved maquette had been tossed on the floor by the side of the stairs.

I had to try very hard to keep back my tears. It had been completely destroyed as if people had been walking on it and dogs had been using it as a chew toy. The boy that carried a picture of Khomeini had fallen on top of the woman in the white chador with red flowers (giving our revolutionary sisters brightly coloured chadors instead of black ones had indeed turned them into right tarts) who was now just a cone as her head was nowhere to be seen. The crow had fallen out of its nest and was now having some sort of struggle with the man in green shirt. The wall on the side had broken off and most of the chickpeas had left their posts as heads and where now rolling freely around the street. Altogether our peaceful demonstration had turned into carnage.


Behrooz said...

A very impressing account. The symbolic ending very well represent your crushed feelings. Yet verbal and visual rendition of the old maquette so well corresponds with the feeling of those days. So you did it again. What if your teacher could read it and hug you again? Wouldn't it be nice?

Behrooz said...

The narrative development of the drawings, with its strong climax, is so fascinatingly melacholic.

Shirin said...

So that’s how you write it then; maquette and not maket :-) I did actually write that in word but it underlined it with red and did that computer thing where whatever you type it just goes ‘What? I don’t know. Really I have no idea what you’re trying to say.’ So I thought maybe this word doesn’t exist in English (and yes that was the height of my research on the whole maquette issue which is quite embarrassing when you think about it. I should really have kept that little story to myself I think ;-) Thanks anyway.

Anahita said...

great description...funny though i made those chickpea people for nowrooz here in the uk. when i was about 5 or 6 years old...but mine didnt have chadors, they were trendy and "moderne"...they were little old ladies with roosary and some hair showing and red lipstick...the chickpea lives on :)

Anonymous said...

shirine darling,this made me really sad..poor things..
whenever u write about something related to Iran, it's so emotional,so beautiful..i just love it.
and the drawings,..oh my god!!u're great!

marieh said...

sad, beautiful story. principally I prefere your golgoli chadors to black ones. we had long late nights trying to make maquettes with my worried parents, cutting and glueing... If not for school I used to make women with pine cones and pingpong ball heads.they were less islamic dressed but very pretty with similarity to walt disney princesses...i attached some with blue hair, thinking they must look more european this way!

Em said...


That was such a poignant and beautiful story.Im sorry that the maquettes got destroyed tho...

Btw now Im wondering where I can get multicoloured fake eyelashes...Hmm

Shirin said...

God that must have been fiddly Anahita. They sound very cute though with hair and everything.

Thanks Foulla, I’m glad you liked it. I hope I didn’t make you too sad though :-)

Marieh, I like the blue hair idea. Very punk rock.

Em, I think I bought mine from a cheapo makeup kiosk in a shopping centre somewhere. They are not exactly classy items as you can imagine ;-) They did look really cool though, or so I thought at the time.

Lo said...

what a beautiful, sad story. i love your blog, shirin! and i especially liked the drawings in this post. you're very talented :)

Anahita said...

not fiddly at all....very easy, we just drew all said characteristics on the actual chickpea with felt tipped simple!! Voila khaleh nokhodi :)

Shirin said...

Thanks lo :-) That’s very sweet. I didn’t think you visited much. I like the pictures too ;-)

Hee hee I see Anahita. You know I’m so into doing fiddly stuff that I didn’t even think you might have drawn them on; I just kept imagining sticking tiny pieces of string or cotton wool to a chickpea! Nokhodi nagoo bala begoo, khoshgeleh khoshgela begoo. I used to love that book :-)

AA said...

Well done! I love chickpeas!

Em said...

Ohh I got mine like for $3.90 ..I was damn proud of myself

jarvenpa said...

You drew me right in, again, to one of your touching stories. Thank you, Shirin. (now I must go get a bunch of chickpeas and make little people with them--great idea. Here, when my children were little, we made acorn people a lot.)

ostan said...

I am back on time too see your nice story and illustration. I rember when small we made a few of these ladies in chador and put them in a tray and tapeped on the bottom of the tray, they moved asif they were dancing. Using them as revolutionary women was really a good idea; it's a shame that your maquette ended in that way.

Shadgoli said...

What's coucou?

ostan said...

Actually I answer Shadgoli. Coucou is like a friendly hi, in France at least. I didn't know that it won't be that clear in English. Take care

Shirin said...

Thanks AA :-)

$3.90 Em? Very posh ;-)

Jarvenpa, when you make your chickpea people, you should as Ostan said, put them on a tray and tap it from underneath to make them dance. I don’t know about now but as a child I really liked that.

Welcome back Ostan :-) I was too scared to ask you if you had your internet yet or not.
So I wasn’t too far off about the coucou thing then; I thought that was how pregnant women said hi. I might try that on Lolo today.

Shadgoli, you back yet?

Dr O2 said...

Ah it was a sad story which I have a same experience of my own on that with those big card boards we used to write on "RUZNAMEDIVARI".

We made a fantastic one & we entered the competition but in the end our poster was just LOST!!! :-S

Shirin said...

How sad Dr O2 :-( Those people had no respect for other people’s art.

Alireza said...

this reminds me when I was highschool in Iran. We asked our Nazem to perform a musical concert with theme of revolution for students. One of the guys bring in a keyboard, we tried to find half decent drum and mellodika. So, we started to play Khomeyni ey Emam, then we slowly change the tone to more exciting one!! students started to dance, we were told to stop, which we didn't. So, they kick us out:) but it was fun!!

Shirin said...

Hee hee that’s very funny Alireza. Nice one ;-)