This issue of Underline, focusing on Iranian female artists of the past half-century, could be our most urgent work to date. There is no exaggeration in the cover title (picture above): the positive role of women in shaping the history of modern Iran has been staggering. While Underline’s inclination towards the arts necessarily leaves out of the picture the significant contributions made by women in the fields of education, science, politics and the economy, I am confident that this fact will be confirmed to anybody reading the articles featured here.
In the main, our celebration of women’s creativity favours the interview format. We have had the honour and pleasure of speaking with some of the most remarkable Iranian artists, who have narrated their life histories and revealed key ideas behind some of their finest work for our readers. You can find more interviews on our website, to complement the theme of this issue.
Before we get to the interviews, we feature eight articles on the careers of numerous artists. The approach taken by our contributors is varied, with new canons of major figures in theatre and film as well as in-depth criticism of developments in the work of individual artists, or in a particular medium. The seven interviews that follow expand on some of the ideas in those articles, and occasionally contradict the readings offered.
The theme and subjects of this issue aside, I’m pleased to say that the majority of our contributors are women, from whose professionalism and insight we have benefited to a great extent.
The working conditions of female artists in Iran are complicated. The Western stereotype is far from the reality but that is not to imply that the artistic lives of those women is free of doubt, or those dark moments particular to the society in which they are actively participating. Theirs is a situation of engagement described by one of our writers as, ‘a deeper search within discriminatory structures’.
I hope this issue will evoke more of the hope and brilliance of the cover photo by Maryam Zandi – who discusses her long career in the Interview section – and remind readers of the fact that, in the face of denial and restriction, Iranian women have always stood at the forefront, pushing for change.