The Foote community was treated to an imaginative and eye-opening presentation about Persian culture, history and politics on Jan. 14 at an event sponsored by MOSAIC. The storytelling performance, titled “Two-Headed Imagomancy,” was an experience unlike anything Foote has seen.
Iranian-born artists Shahrzad Changalvaee and Iman Raad presented a series of vignettes about Persian language, script and cultural exchanges between east and west before a crowd of 110 in the Sandine Theater. Many Foote students, parents, faculty, former faculty and outside community members came to hear the stimulating presentation and socialize over a spread of Persian-inspired foods.
Behind the artists on stage was an enormous, hand-painted canvas onto which various images were projected. Assisting them in the storytelling performance were two Foote fourth graders.
Inspired by Naghaali (a form of Persian storytelling that uses decorative backdrops), the performance flowed through a range of subjects – including a memorable sequence about the evolution of Farsi script on Pepsi bottles – to weave a loose narrative that was part lecture, part experimental art performance.
As Shahrzad explains, Naghaali is a tradition in Iran wherein people gather in coffeehouses to hear an expert tell usually religious or pre-Islamic stories before a specially commissioned backdrop, or curtain. It can be hard to distinguish fact from fantasy in the performances and that’s deliberate, says Shahrzad. “We want everything to be blended. We don’t aim to give a certain conclusion. We want the audience to listen, and by putting the stories together, to form their own narrative.”
The event was presented by Foote’s diversity group MOSAIC, which stands for Multicultural, Open-Minded, Supportive, Accepting, Inclusive Community. Foote parent and MOSAIC co-chair Kiran Zaman thanked everyone who helped organize the event and those who attended.
“It feels so wonderful to be part of a community that is open and willing to learn about different cultures and ways of life. The visual impact conveyed immense emotion and told many stories. I feel that many attendees walked away learning a lot about Iran, Persian culture and a completely different way of life that include expectations aligned with ours and those that differ as well.”