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Smith Doco: The Two Friends on a Mission to Revive Ancient Iranian Arts

Thursday June 07, 2018 Written by

Designer and arts worker Missy Saleeba was blown away when she first visited Iran.

“The energy of Tehran – it’s like the New York of the Middle East and that was completely unexpected. I remember being in the car on my first day looking around and thinking: this is not the place I’ve seen in the media.”

Although she found the nightlife to be different, she embraced that too.

“We’re not out drinking every night like in Australia, it’s a different culture. You go to the parks and hang out, or you drive around Tehran, stop at the tea stations for your tea and sugar stick, have a cigarette, chat to different people. Then you get in your car and go somewhere else. It’s very social.”

Missy’s friend Pouria Zoughi, a photographer who was born in Iran but now calls Melbourne home, misses what he calls “the intensity” of urban Iranian life. “It’s a lively culture, there’s a lot of activity.”

Then of course, there’s the artistic culture – the pottery, painting, weaving, fabric dying, metalwork and stonemasonry that has continued in a similar vein for over a century. In the Smith Journal doco above, much of which was shot by Missy during her recent travels, they take you into a vibrant, little-seen side of Iran. A world of weavers, ceramicists and artists.

“It’s important to me personally to be able to sustainably support the craftspeople who are there,” explains Pouria. “They’re very marginalised at the moment because of mass consumerism.”

Pouria took this dream to Missy, an experienced designer and artistic manager, and “over a drinks session” the idea for Dyad Artisans was born. They both threw in their day jobs and now they travel regularly across Iran, meeting and engaging traditional artisans with a view to selling their work in Australia.  

“We’re trying to find a market for them, so we can say to them: you’ll have an income doing this. We can offer you that. And then by doing that, keep those thousand-year-old traditions alive,” says Pouria.

Another arm of Dyad, which Missy is looking forward to developing, will see cross-cultural collaborations happening between contemporary artists and designers between Tehran and Melbourne… as well as lots more stories.

“We want to be able to throw another light on Iran and show people a different view, through the artists, the designers, the craftspeople,” she says. “It’s what we love and what we know, and the world we live in.”

For Pouria, it’s also about combatting the reductive, sensationalist reporting of Iran in mainstream media.

“There is this culture of Iran-bashing that’s been going on for the past 40 years,” he reflects, adding that they want to “move beyond” the typical news stories and help share more positive profiles on Iran’s talented traditional and contemporary artists.

“How many times have you seen the news showing a cultural story in Iran, something like that?” he asks.

Read more about a particularly eclectic item in the Dyad creative collection in Smith Journal volume 27, on-sale in Australia from June 4. For more stories of the Iranian artists Missy and Pouria work with, visit Dyad Artisans

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