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The Collective for Black Iranians Debuts Their Inaugural Exhibit In Philly

Starting earlier this month, 12 Gates Arts is hosting the opening for “Hasteem: We are here,” an exhibit put on by the phenomenal Collective for Black Iranians.

The Collective was founded by Priscillia Kounkou-Hoveyda, a human rights lawyer, as well as five other Black Iranians whose goal is to create a mainstream narrative about the intersectional experiences of Black and African Iranians.  The inaugural exhibition at 12 Gates Arts brings together a diverse group of voices to speak to the silenced histories of Iranian culture that stands fully at its Black and African intersections. 

The Collective for Black Iranians is a creative and critically conscious initiative proposing an Iranian culture that stands fully at its Black and African intersections. The team stated, “Not all of the artists in the exhibit are Black and Afro Iranians, but all of the work happens in the community and is carefully art directed by Black and Afro Iranians to ensure our stories are told from our perspective.” 

Too often, anti-Blackness marginalizes voices and experiences of Black people and people of African descent, both in the Muslim community and our communities at large. This exhibition and the work of the collective generally is a welcome relief and cultural disruption.

To read more about the exhibit the 12 Gates Press Release can be found here.

Too often, anti-Blackness marginalizes voices and experiences of Black people and people of African descent, both in the Muslim community and in our communities at large. This exhibition and the work of the collective generally is a welcome relief and cultural disruption.

Muslim Girl asked the co-founders to speak to the significance of their work, both in the exhibit and the collective.  These are their brief, powerful and moving statements:

Priscillia Kounkou-Hoveyda

The exhibit is important in that it starts a conversation that the Iranian community urgently needs to hold, especially in its diaspora. Who are Black Iranians, Afro Iranians, what is (part(s)) of our/their stories and histories? Too often in our community, antiBlackness is pushed under the rug under the pretense that Iranians unlike others, pretext not to see color, thereby harming and ignoring our stories and histories more. The Collective with this exhibit is here to say that we are here, we have always been and these are (part) of our stories and histories.

Alex D. Eskandarkhah

What this exhibit means to the culture is nothing short of revolutionary. Using art to educate on history and heritage moves the conversation regarding representation forward. Black Iranians seeing themselves represented throughout the arts through our movement will inspire the next generation to see themselves in the tapestry of what it means to be Iranian.

Pardis Nkoy

Through our creatively disruptive and historically informative storytelling, the Collective has brought Black Iranians from around the globe to create a community I could only dream of as a child. Seeing the work we’ve produced in this exhibit is a testament to the ways we have been and will continue to advocate for the changes we want to see in how Black and Afro Iranians are represented.  

Parisa Nkoy 

This exhibit is aptly summed up in the title, Hasteem, meaning We Are Here. We are and have always been an integral piece of Iranian culture and history, yet our voices were never heard. The Collective for Black Iranians has been working to amplify these stories and experiences, and to shift culture through creative disruption. Up until now, this work mostly existed in virtual spaces. This exhibit marks a milestone accomplishment in moving our work into the physical world, bringing recognition, visibility and validation to the Black and Afro Iranian community.

Norman Soltan Salahshour

The exhibit is our way to portray Black Iranian heritage and history, which still has not found its place in the Iranian Diaspora. We look for a way to be seen and we took an artistic approach to reinforce our motto “Hasteem”(We are here). We want to be accepted as a part of Iranian history, and therefore we’re showing what we got.

If you are local and you’d like to check out the opening, please contact the gallery here. The exhibit runs until September 24th in Philly.

Social media handles of the exhibiting artists are as follows:

Read more about the Collective for Black Iranians , or follow Sarah Mohr on Twitter!

Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.