Haleh Anvari feels that the black chador has become an icon for Iran. It has been used very effectively by two very opposing camps, both the Islamist government of Iran and the Western media. She feels that the government uses it both for religious considerations but also because the image of a black clad woman became the trade mark or logo of the Islamic Republic. It became the most visual way of telling the world after the revolution, that something had changed in Iran while the Western media uses it as a proof of the repression of the Islamic state on its citizens. Yet for Anvari, both sources exploit the chador for their own purposes and neither show the true picture of the life of Iranian women.
In Anvari’s series Chadornama, she begins by combining the Chador with the word nama. Nama is not only a reflection, but also the refraction that occurs, for instance, when water reflects on a house. Chadornama is a series about Iranian women emerging within the Iranian landscape. Though this series began as a form of protest for Anvari – she wanted to show that black chadors do not speak for the women of Iran – and instead created colorful chadors and luscious environments. Yet the color and beauty of the women in the landscapes instead depict a loving portrait by the artist for her country and her people.
Dadar is a playful Persian word often used for children when they are sent to play outside with Da meaning door. At the same time, there is a derogative slang for women; a Dada is a woman of dubious moral standing, someone who goes out too much. In the Chador-dadar series, Anvari takes her colorful chadors to play outside in locations around the world. She juxtaposes the chador, what she sees as the icon for Iran, with the icons of other nations. In these spaces, the intervention of these chadors with the people and location of the places she visits reveals as much about our ideas about what the chador represents as it does to challenge the viewer to imagine the women of Iran with lives as colorful and playful as the situations in which they find themselves. Each place offers different opportunities and reactions as Anvari travels to London, Paris, Dubai, Istanbul and to Agra India and the Taj-Mahal.
Born in Tehran, writer/photographer Haleh Anvari received a joint BA in Politics and Philosophy with honors from the University of Keele, Stratfordshire, UK in 1985. Her recent solo exhibitions include Al Riwaq Gallery in Bahrain and Etemad Gallery in Tehran. Group exhibitions include, Thirty years of Solitude at Cambridge University and Duomo Assicurazioni in Caserta, Italy.
A comment from the artist
If the chador is the icon for Iran, let it meet the icons for some other nations. Chado- dadar became a live installation in every city it was photographed and ultimately revealed as much about the nature of the people it visited that it did about itself. We made it to Dubai, to Taj- Mahal, the Amber Fort in Jaipur,we went to London and joined a peace protest, we visited Big Ben, then onto Paris, the Louvre, where we were thrown out because the Hejab is a hot button issue and to Istanbul where the only model I could find wouldn't wear the Chador because she was a secularist, so in Istanbul I became a model and she photographed!