‘Iran in Revolt’ exhibition opens at IndyPL

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Many of the artists who created the work displayed in the
Many of the artists who created the work displayed in the "Iran in Revolt" exhibit wish to remain anonymous to protect their safety. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)

The Indianapolis Public Library is helping to bring awareness to ongoing issues in the Middle East through a new art exhibition.

Curated by Parisa Kay and Hassan Mihankhah, “Iran in Revolt” opened in the Yellow Gallery at Central Library Dec. 29. The exhibition, which includes art from Iranian artists, both local and in Iran, following the 2022 uprising, will host its opening reception Jan. 13 in the Simon Reading Room and remain on display until Jan. 22.

“This art — the majority of it — is from one artist, that he has drawn up from his experience about what had gone on [during] last year’s uprising,” Mihankhah said, referencing an artist who had been imprisoned. “So, we tried to be his voice, the Iranian’s voice, to show the people the brutality of the regime from the art point.”

Mihankhah and Kay were both born in Iran and immigrated to the United States in their early 20s, shortly after the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979. Since then, both have dedicated their lives to human rights activism and raising awareness for the atrocities happening in their home country. 

Parisa Kay, a local fashion designer and activist, designed a dress for "Iran in Revolt" inspired by the Iranian flag. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)
Parisa Kay, a local fashion designer and activist, designed a dress for “Iran in Revolt” inspired by the Iranian flag. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)

“Iran in Revolt” features artwork from five Iranian artists who lived through the 2022 uprising — or Zan, Zendegi, Azadi, which translates to Woman, Life, Freedom Movement. This uprising led to thousands of deaths, arrests and brutal torture of innocent Iranian men and women who protested and spoke out against the Islamic Penal Code for restricting human rights.

Several of the artists featured in the exhibition still live in, have family or visit Iran, Kay said. Because of this, most of the artwork on display features “anonymous” tags to protect their identity and ensure their safety from persecution of the regime.

“Any other artists, they want to be well known and their name be out there; people know them,” Kay said. “They [these artists] don’t want to reveal their name for their safety … some people are afraid if they go back to Iran or, even if they hear, they’re going to bother the family.”

Kay attended fashion school in Iran before moving to Indiana, where she started her own business in 2009. She continues to use fashion as a creative outlet to speak up for those in Iran, including creating a dress inspired by the original Iranian flag featured in “Iran in Revolt.”

“It has three colors, and in the middle, there is a lion, and so I designed this dress inspired from the flag,” Kay said. “On the sleeves and on the skirt, the green and red part, you see some of the ribbons, and those ribbons … each one has a name.”

The names, she said, belong to just a few of the men, women and children who have been killed by the Islamic Morality Police, or Sepah Pasdaran.

The green at the top of the dress stands for nature and happiness, the red skirt is for the patriots who have been killed during the uprisings, and the white is for peace, Kay said. The rings on the dress represent the different peoples of Iran coming together stronger in the fight for freedom, while the head piece represents “the hope freedom in Iran rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams,” Kay wrote in an Instagram post.

"Iran in Revolt" is on display in the Yellow Gallery at Central Library through Jan. 22, 2024. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)
“Iran in Revolt” is on display in the Yellow Gallery at Central Library through Jan. 22, 2024. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)

Over the last few years, Mihankhah said he and Kay have worked tirelessly to advocate for their fellow Iranians and bring awareness to the injustices happening overseas, from protesting in the streets to writing to legislators and calling Congress members. Curating “Iran in Revolt” is another way for them to bring awareness and be the voice for those who cannot speak up safely.

“We are looking at any avenue that we can choose to bring the story out to keep or get more people involved,” Mihankhah said. “For two people, whatever we can do is to raise and be the voice of the people that do not have the voice.”

Through the exhibit, Kay said they are also able to show Americans the differences between their countries and demonstrate appreciation for the freedoms they have here that are not afforded to them in Iran.

“Iran in Revolt” is on display in the Yellow Gallery at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair. St., now through Jan. 22. The opening reception is free to attend, but guests are encouraged to register at attend.indypl.org/event/9679658.

For more information about the exhibit or to find books about Iran and its ongoing struggle for freedom, visit indypl.org.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.