Censorship is defined as the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive’ which happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. No definition could do justice to the true impact of censorship on any one person; it’s an epidemic disease that is globally hard at work. Censorship has cracked the doors of some of our homes more than others.
Iran, for instance, is a country that has lived through censorship for long; a phenomenon that has left the nation with loads of unspoken words and untold stories, with paintings that were not painted, dances that were never choreographed, films that were not directed, plays that were never staged, poems that were left unfinished, freedom that was taken from creative minds, lives that were abruptly taken from those who dared to speak up.
Nevertheless, if we are to seek a winner in Iran, censorship is not it. Many artists, authors, journalists and others have remained creative and productive at the risk of losing their freedom. They have not ceased their art and their creative work even under some of the most difficult social, political and economic circumstances. Thanks to them, while a captive of censorship and repression, today’s Iran is filled with young and emerging artists whose work, whenever it finds a way to the outside, leaves the world in awe of such unique and daring creativity.
Many creative minds have managed to remain in Iran and continue to work from within and some have had to leave. Those who remained in the country work courageously to seek creative ways to surpass censorship quietly without crossing the red lines and without compromising their art. Those who have had to leave, work tirelessly to capture bits and pieces of life in a country whose memories, uncertainties and censored dreams haunt them day and night from afar.
The trouble is that sometimes when you learn to survive in a country governed by censorship or when you pack your life into a suitcase and flee forever to run away from revolutions, wars and other such historic events in the lifetime of a country, you forget that there are others like you. You feel alone in your story, in particular if you are an artist who tries to hold on to creativity in the mist of the deafening sound of revolutions in the streets or boisterous speeches of ideology around you.
In the midst of politicized despair in today’s Iran, in an environment where people have learned to look ahead and get by, many Iranian artists, authors, journalists and creative minds have not let go of their voice. They have lived to express their feelings and thoughts in spite of censorship and the fear of ending up in prisons made for those who dare to speak up. Without the desire to become political and national heroes, they have created space in the private of their small rooms and studios in order to preserve the voices that are muted by those who govern. This project, “Shiva: Struggles against Censorship in Iran”, belongs to them!
“Shiva: Struggles Against Censorship in Iran”, a project led by the Siamak Pourzand Foundation (SPF) and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is a space for the stories of censorship in the life and work of Iranian creative minds. Shiva, which means clarity of speech in the Persian language, brings together renowned and emerging artists, authors, journalists, and creative minds and encourages them to exchange stories and experiences of how they work in an environment governed by censorship. “Shiva” is a space to discuss the tactical approaches and the dilemmas that Iranian creative minds face in overcoming censorship.
“Shiva: Struggles Against Censorship Iran” will consist of two main programs in 2013-2014; “Crossing Censorship” and “No to Censorship!”
“Crossing Censorship” will host a series of interactive lectures with prominent and emerging Iranian artists, writers and journalists to address the delicate task of creative work within the context of Iran’s complex censorship apparatus. “No to Censorship!” will be a collection of stories, essays and visual arts submissions by Iranians who have experienced censorship in various aspects of their life and work.
Let us narrate this story together in the multiplicity of our voices and in the chaos of our ideas.