Archive for December/2010


Dec 21 – The last night of the fall, the winter solstice, is celebrated in the Iranian culture. It occurs on December 21 or 22. In Iran this night is called Shab-e Yalda (Yalda Night), which refers to the rebirth of the sun.

Yalda is the longest night of the year. Ancient Iranians believed that at the end of this longest night, which they believed was evil, darkness was defeated by light (Sun) allowing the days to become longer. This celebration comes at the beginning of the Iranian month of Dey.

The birth of the sun and beginning of the winter has become the beginning of the year and source of celebration in many cultures and traditions. Early Christians related this very ancient Persian celebration to Mithra, goddess of light, and linked it to Christ’s birthday. Today, the date for Christmas is slightly off from Yalda, but they are celebrated in many similar ways, staying up all night, gatherings with family and friends, lighting candles, and eating special foods.

Coinciding with the very beginning of winter, Yalda is also an occasion to celebrate the end of the harvest of the previous year and to wish and pray for the prosperity of the next year’s harvest.

Yalda is also an occasion for families and extended family members to get together. They gather at the house of the eldest member of the family.They sit around ‘korsi’ (a low, square table, covered with a thick blanket hanging over the table on all side s. A container with hot coals is placed under the table to keep everyone warm.) All night the family and friends sit on cushions around the korsi with the blanket over their laps. They set colorful dishes of fruits, nuts, and sweets on the korsi, chat, tell jokes and stories, sing and recite poetry.

Long into the Yalda Night, the family keeps the fire under the korsi burning and the lights on to help the sun in its battle against darkness and its rebirth in the morning.

One of the traditions of Yalda is reciting the poetry by Hafez, the 14th century Iranian poet. Most of the elements of Yalda festivities have roots from thousands of years ago; however, the recitation of Hafez poems has been added in recent centuries. Each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens the Divan of Hafez to one of its pages and usually the eldest member of the family recites the poem on that page. What is expressed in that poem is believed to be the interpretation of the wisher’s wish and whether and how it will come true. This tradition is called fal-e Hafez.

The 13th century Iranian poet Sa’di wrote in his Bustan:

‘The true morning will not come until the Yalda Night is gone.’


Booming Beirut struggles to save its past

Written on December 20, 2010 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies, IE Humanities Center

I’m sure tourists do not come to Lebanon to see skyscrapers.
says Pascale Inega, heritage activist

Though great for Beirut’s economy — Lebanon’s Central Bank says the property sector is worth $10 billion a year — the construction boom has come at a price: the destruction of much of the city’s ancient heritage.

With legislation aimed at preserving Beirut’s architectural heritage making faltering progress through the parliament, according to pressure groups, they say it has fallen to them to try to preserve what remains.

In recent months, thousands of activists — recruited using Facebook — have joined a campaign that has already successfully put some pressure on the government and brought the situation to international attention.

“Developers are transforming the city in the image of Dubai,” said Pascale Inega, a Lebanese artist and co-founder of the newly-established Association for the Protection of the Lebanese Heritage.

“Each country has its own image, and we cannot be the model of Dubai. We are not a desert, we have our own culture.”

With architectural influences dating back beyond the French colonial era of the previous century through 400 years of Ottoman rule, Beirut’s urban landscape was once a reflection of its rich history.

Many historic buildings were destroyed damaged during the 1975 to 1990 civil war, but those that survived have been increasingly under threat.

Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture says that of 1,200 old mansions and buildings surveyed in 1995, only 400 still stand. Campaigners say that number is dwindling each year.

Continue reading in CNN


Art to get its own “stock exchange”

Written on December 16, 2010 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Firm will sell shares in works held by participating galleries

PARIS. As the notion of art as an asset gains momentum again, the first stock exchange for art—on which clients can buy shares in works from galleries—is due to launch in Paris “in the next few days” according to its website. Based on a stock market model, Art Exchange will offer collectors the chance jointly to own works of art with shares available from between €10 and €100. Participating galleries are currently selling works valued at €100,000 or more, although the exchange intends to lower this figure once the company is established. “Given that we are doing something new, we had to create confidence and credibility in the investor and this is done through having high-class art works,” said Caroline Mat­thews, the director of operations at Art Exchange. Matthews also hopes the calibre of works available will encourage naysayers to invest through the exchange. “For some people, mixing fine art and finance goes against their principles, but perhaps they will see things differently in the future,” she said.

In return for a 5% commission, the exchange has the exclusive right to sell shares in a work over a period of three to six months, but if it does not sell 20% of shares within six months, the gallery recuperates what has already been sold and retains the work of art. If one collector amasses 80% of shares in a work, they have the option to buy it outright and remove the work from the exchange. Currently around half-a-dozen Parisian galleries are participating, but Matthews also wants to enter the US, UK and Chinese markets. The exchange is initially offering six works—about which it is very secretive—but these include a Mike Kelley installation valued at $1m offered by Galerie Hussenot, a work by Sol LeWitt—Irregular Form, 1998—from Yvon Lambert and a large sculpture by Richard Texier offered directly by the artist.

Galleries can opt to keep the works while they are on the exchange, provided they agree to exhibit them, or Art Exchange can take charge of the works with the intention of loaning them to other institutions for display. The exchange also wants to open a gallery within six to nine months.

Continue reading in THE ART NEWSPAPER

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