Based in Auckland, Iranian Women in NZ (IWIN) was established in 2020 as a charitable organisation to support migrant woman from Iran. From this group of over 400 members, there are roughly 34 artists who work towards producing an annual group exhibition in July. One of the group’s members, Sahar Boroujeni, recently brought together nine of these artists to participate in a printmaking project for the Printopia Festival of Original Print at Corban Estate Arts Centre, 5 – 7 May 2023. Some of the artists had previous experience with printmaking and others had never done any kind of printmaking before but were interested in learning a new technique that could be incorporated into their arts practice.
Their first project was to create a collaborate print inspired by the Persian rugs and tablecloths of Sahar’s hometown. Using small squares of linocut they carved a selection of traditional Persian motifs and designs to complete the grid of 49 squares that make up the piece. The traditional practice of block printing large square tablecloths by hand is still very popular in Iran and these colourful, hand printed textiles are much sought after works of art. The group has also explored screen printing using hand cut stencils on paper, fabric, clothing and objects.
Boroujeni jokes that she came to printmaking by accident. Her mother was an art teacher, graduating with a visual arts degree majoring in fashion design, so she grew up in a home filled with art, in particular screen prints her mother had made as an art student and at work. Despite her creative background, she went on to complete a degree in engineering because studying art was viewed by her generation as unpopular, and those who chose it as a subject were regarded as lazy or not intelligent enough to succeed in another field.
However, four years after settling in New Zealand she felt something was missing in her life and started to explore different art media such as painting. It wasn’t until she picked up a lino cutter and produced her first linocut that she knew her search for creative expression was over. One thing that appeals to Boroujeni about printmaking is the replication of a printed image and being able to share one image with many people.
Boroujeni often combines traditional Persian calligraphy with graphic lino cut images. Her latest body of work features several chess pieces; the King, Knight and Tower. This imagery was developed in response to the current political climate in Iran, which she describes as a psychological battlefield. Each piece represents a different player in the uprising and their quest to protect their values and win the battle.
The theme of women’s freedom and equality in Iran influences the work of all the IWINZ Art Group members. Printmaking has always been a popular tool for political engagement and dissemination of ideas, and it appears that the groups engagement with the medium and process will allow them to follow this tradition of mobilisation and collaboration around social issues in need of urgent action.
Iranian Women in NZ – Instagram @iwin.charity.artists FaceBook: Iranian Women in NZ
IWIN Artistis @iwin.charity.artists
Sahar Boroujeni @saharboroujeni