Archive for 2011



Written on December 30, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

When my trust hung from the thin thread of justice
And the hearts of my lamps were smashed into tiny pieces
All over town
And the childlike eyes of my love were blindfolded
With the black kerchief of law
When blood was gushing forth from the anxious temples of my desire
When my life was nothing other than the ticking of the clock
I realized that I must love
That I must madly love.

This is an excerpt from the poem “Window” (1967) by Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Farzaneh Milani from the Persian. Shirin Neshat is an artist and director of the film “Women Without Men.”

Watch the video The New York Times


Banksy’s ‘Cardinal Sin’ has been loaned indefinitely to Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Banksy has waded into the child sex abuse scandal of the Catholic church with a sculpture of a priest with his face obscured called Cardinal Sin.

The graffiti artist’s piece is a replica of an 18th-century stone bust, which has had its face sawn off and replaced with a mosaic of bathroom tiles to replicate the pixellation effect used on TV to prevent identification of victims of sex crimes.

Announcing his indefinite loan of the piece to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, Banksy strongly implied that Cardinal Sin is a comment on the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Describing the statue as a Christmas present, the artist said in a statement: “At this time of year it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity – the lies, the corruption, the abuse.”

The bust went on public display for the first time on Thursday in the Walker’s 17th Century Old Masters gallery, alongside works by old masters including Van Dyck and Poussin.

Reyahn King, director of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said the Walker was “thrilled” to display the work of a “major contemporary artist”.

“It’s a huge coup and we are sure his work will spark a reaction with visitors.

“Banksy specified that it be shown alongside our period collection and we were very happy to oblige.”

As published in The Guardian


What Is College For?

Written on December 28, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Most American college students are wrapping up yet another semester this week. For many of them, and their families, the past months or years in school have likely involved considerable time, commitment, effort and expense. Was it worth it?

Some evidence suggests that it was.  A Pew Research survey this year found that 74 percent of graduates from four-year colleges say that their education was “very useful in helping them grow intellectually.” Sixty-nine percent said that “it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person” and 55 percent claimed that “it was very useful in helping prepare them for a job or career.”  Moreover, 86 percent of these graduates think “college has been a good investment for them personally.”

Nonetheless, there is incessant talk about the “failure” of higher education.  (Anthony Grafton at The New York Review of Books provides an excellent survey of recent discussions.)  Much of this has to do with access: it’s too expensive, admissions policies are unfair, the drop-out rate is too high.  There is also dismay at the exploitation of graduate students and part-time faculty members, the over-emphasis on frills such as semi-professional athletics or fancy dorms and student centers, and the proliferation of expensive and unneeded administrators.  As important as they are, these criticisms don’t contradict the Pew Survey’s favorable picture of the fundamental value of students’ core educational experience.

Continue reading in The New York Times



The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers: Manal Al-Sharif

Written on December 22, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

In May, a video appeared on YouTube featuring Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi computer consultant and longtime women’s rights activist, driving her car in the city of Khobar. In Saudi Arabia, the only country on Earth where women are prohibited from driving, the video, quickly blocked by Saudi authorities, became a viral sensation. Later, Sharif encouraged Saudi women to take part in a nationwide day of driving to protest the ban, which is widely enforced but not actually written in Saudi law.

What Do Saudi Women Want? It's not as simple as driving, voting, and property

The clip — and Sharif’s later imprisonment — sparked a movement. Dozens of videos of Saudi women driving in defiance of the ban have continued to appear on the Internet, the first major challenge in more than a decade to Saudi Arabia’s restrictive rules targeting women, the harshest in the world. Meanwhile, though the Saudi government has now granted women the right to vote in the 2015 elections — with permission from a male relative, of course — a woman was recently sentenced to flogging for being caught in the driver’s seat (the sentence was later commuted). Part of the reason women are increasingly defying this harsh treatment is Eman Al Nafjan, author of Saudiwoman’s Weblog, one of the most influential English-language blogs on Saudi Arabia, as well as a postgraduate student in Riyadh and mother of three. She not only amplified the driving videos and the protest on her blog, but called out Saudi authorities for setting up a fake Twitter feed to discredit Sharif. Saudi Arabia may not have seen the upheavals experienced elsewhere in the Arab world this year, but Nafjan thinks the driving protest is a sign of things to come. “There’s no denying that the country is fertile ground for a revolution,” she writes.

As published in Foreign Policy


Yalda, longest night of year, tonight

Written on December 21, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

 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 or Shab-e Chelleh), 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, gathering with family and friends, lighting candles, and eating special foods.

The ancient Iranians kept the fire burning all night to ensure the defeat of the forces of Ahriman (devil). There would be feasts, acts of charity and a number of deities were honored to ensure the total victory of Sun essential for the protection of winter crops.

With the conquest of Islam, the religious significance of ancient Persian ceremonies was lost. However, ceremonies that upheld the spirit of Islamic teachings continued to win favor.

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