The Cup Flows Over: Art from the Soul of Iran

By Maria Lachanaris

Art holds the power to unite people across cultures, politics, and religion. The new exhibit
featured in Gallery Bergen, Bergen Community College’s very own art gallery, does just that.
The exhibit opened September 21st and runs through November 21st, and is titled, The Cup
Flows Over: Art from the Soul of Iran. Its twin art installation will be on display at the
Glockenbachwerkstatt Community Center on October 24th 2023 through December of 2023, in
Munich, Germany. The exhibit is described as a celebration of Iranian art within the diaspora,
and features the works of exceptional and talented artists such as Parastou Forouhar, Sholeh
Asgary, Labkhand Olfatmanesh, Shaghayegh Cyrous, Katyoun Bahrami, Narges Poursadeqi,
Fanny Pokrandt, Ali Sayah, Mansooreh Baghgaraee, and Raven, as well as an anonymous
artist. The gallery was curated by Tim Blunk, who is the Director of Gallery Bergen, as well as
an anonymous collaborator.

Upon arrival at the gallery, which is located on the third floor of West Hall, lies the various art
mediums as well as plaques detailing the backgrounds of some prominent pieces. Canvases,
computer screens, projectors, photographs, paintings, as well as a large tapestry, all function to
tell the story of Iranian women, their history, and their struggle, specifically highlighting the
mistreatment of women in recent years by the morality police.

The mass protests began over a year ago, after Mahsa Amini, a twenty-two year old Kurdish-
Iranian woman, was arrested by the morality police in Iran for improper dress code regarding
the hijab, and later died in police custody. After her funeral, word of her death circulated online
and on social media; this injustice sparked an immense movement for Iranians, especially
young women, who resonated with the harsh brutality, censorship, and violent treatment of the
police. Protestors tore off and burned head scarves, led chants against the Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and destroyed symbols of the government. However, the protestors
were met with heavy resistance; hundreds were killed and wounded, and thousands were
arrested. Executions carried out were linked to the protests, and even recently on October 22nd,
2023, two female journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi were sentenced to 12
years in prison for reporting on Amini’s death.

The gallery pieces tie into these current events and draw inspiration from the continual strength
of these young Iranian women, who defy this regime in a place where self expression comes
with the threat of violent retaliation. The Shadow, by Labkhand Olfatmanesh, is a series of black
and white photographs featuring a woman wrapped in a swirling scarf, which explores the
concept of the strict dress code enforced by the Iranian government. Weaving Strings of Grief,
(Woman, Life, Freedom) by Katayoun Bahrami and Narges Poursadeqi, is a fiber-based work
that pays homage to the protestors’ determination and resilience, which depicts a large tapestry
with braided cords representing the unraveling of oppression as well as weaved sections, which
plays into the creation of new methods of resistance.

If students have some free time between classes, stopping into Gallery Bergen and viewing the
exhibit is an excellent opportunity to immerse oneself in traditional Iranian art, and spreading
awareness and advocating for the rights and freedom of Iranian women. The Gallery is open
through November 21st on the third floor of West Hall on the Paramus campus.

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