A Media Artist's Response To Failing Diplomacy

When BriAnna Olson's pacifist views were confronted by an adamant American couple, she decided to heed their challenge and head to Tehran-- the epicenter of the Axis of Evil nation.

Amongst a landscape of failed diplomacy and media smear campaigns, she and fellow artist Michael Pope found a society far more alive and hospitable than they'd ever been led to believe.

Like jesters of a modern-day Magellan, they've returned with stories and insights to a culture few American's have seen first hand.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 7: Tehran - Mohsen II and a secular world

Our new translator/guide is Mohsen, not to be confused with our last guide Mohsen [I refer you to Avatar the Last Airbender: City of Walls and Secrets' character 'Joo Dee'] New Mohsen is very (very) excited to help us out. He's been jailed for years (and lashed x20... possession of alcohol) and still stands. He immediately gives us the inside scoop the political history that he was very much a part of (a Fine Arts student at Tehran University-- demonstrating against the shah) and he explains that the world is full of 3 kinds of people. 1) Fanactics 2) Super Fanatics and 3) Extreme Super Fanatics. Like many we've met around here-- he doesn't believe in religion (though he later admits, while his friend laughs, to feeling a metaphysical connection between him and a "higher" power).
After showing us his bookstore, Mohsen took us to have lunch with Pariyoush Ganji, a painter / lecturer / professor (and former classmate of Mohsen) that was also witness to the Revolution. Her place and her studio were amazing. She spoke of generations of artists, was totally into this trip/project, and offered to help in anyway she could. She even quoted Jesus (and made a point to mention that she was secular) when she encouraged me to continue 'striving through narrow doors'.
After a day of satellite television, jokes about creationists and Sunni v. Shiites, it was another day of reinforcing that Iran has many many many faces.

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