Post #7: An Image of Victory

April 25th, 2018

Hahaha! I feel a little insecure about this last blog post, I must confess. While I have record music for years, and written poetry and fiction for a while as well, I am very inexperienced in the world of visual art, and I have the skills of a five year old. So, I hope you will forgive the lack of technical skill in comparison with my other projects and appreciate nonetheless the intention and symbolism of my design.

This last piece is inspired by some of the scholarship from Shiva Balaghi and Lynn Gumpert that we explored in our readings. I am intrigued and mesmerized that the Iranian revolution hijacked and evolved certain symbols that are mainstays of the Shiite tradition. We see this exemplified dramatically in the political posters of the revolution that deposed the Shah and established Khomeini. Balaghi and Gumpert note how the traditional pardeh form which retells the tragic story of Karbala is augmented to recount the victory of the Ayatollah and the burgeoning Islamic republic. To assert the parallel between the victorious rebellion and Hussein’s defeat at Karbala is an interesting choice. As Professor Asani has pointed out, Shiite theology developed in a context of political defeat, not political victory, and Karbala is a core aspect of that understanding. While the political posters we examined are meant to convey a sense of celebration and victory, what is the real desired victory? What is the ultimate goal, that might transcend the establishment of any one part or sect in a hegemony or a political system?

The goal, I think is submission. It is oneness between God and God’s children, humanity. Surely this is lost in the eyes of people who cling to or vie for power, and forgotten by people who glorify, delight in, or celebrate violence. The real victory would be peace, and the real victor would not be the Shah or the Ayatollah or any human, but God, the Supreme.

With that in mind, I want to use the format of one of the posters discussed by Balaghi and Gumpert, and change it to fit a more cosmic sense of divine (rather than human) victory (see Fig. 61 for the original).

The flags of nationalism are replaced with the fire of God’s consuming love. The dominant face of Khomeini is replaced by the shadow of the submitting human, who—like Muhammad in that central Asian Night Journey manuscript we examined—basks, prostrates, and supplicates in that radiant and loving glory. Instead of a bleeding revolutionary holding a flag that says, “Independence, Freedom, and the Islamic Republic,” I have chosen to put an innocent child with a flag that simply says, “Love” (it’s also green, for the Prophet!) For Islam—at least, according to Rumi’s teacher—is about love, after all. And finally, instead of a band of revolutionaries, we see broken weapons, indicating an end to gratuitous human conflict. My goal was to take the pro-Khomeini image of victory and turn it into an image of God’s victory through the salvation of the human family. Also, I can’t figure out how to rotate it, my apologies!

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