Nowruz with Farhang Foundation at LACMA; a festival of renewal and unity

By: Bita Milanian
Photo: Banafsheh P.Abadi

Updated 3/23/09

Farhang Foundation, together with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), presented a two-day celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in anticipation of this joyous holiday, beginning on the first day of spring, embodying a wealth of ancient customs and the only one that is not confined to the traditions of only one religious group.

This two-day festivity began on Saturday, March 14th, with a private Award Ceremony and Reception, honoring Professor Ehsan Yarshater with the Foundation’s Heritage Award 2009, recognizing his tremendous contributions to the study of Iranian civilization and the creation of Encyclopedia Iranica, a record of Persian Heritage. The Foundation plans on presenting this award annually to an individual who contributes similarly to the history and culture of Iran. Professor Yarshater was presented with an official award certificate and the Farhang Foundation Heritage Medal by the Foundation’s Chairman; Ali C. Razi, President; Touraj Daryaee and Board of Trustee member, Darioush Khaledi who chaired this year’s Award Committee.

In addition to the Heritage Award, Mr. Ali Attar, a filmmaker from in Iran, was awarded with the Farhang Foundation’s Short Film Festival 2009’s first prize, for his film “The Sevens”/”Haftaan”. For this online film competition, filmmakers from all walks of life, Iranian and non-Iranian, were invited to create and submit a short film, visualizing their unique take on Iranian Heritage. Farhang Foundation defines Iranian Heritage as a way of life and culture that has been passed from one generation to the next in an Iranian influenced environment and is not limited to geographical borders.

The final selection included five other submitted films, in addition to the winning film, which are:
•Az Farsh ta Arsh by Hamideh Razavi, Iran
•Isfahan by Cristobal Vila, Spain
•My Identity by Gobi M. Rahimi, USA
•Naghsh-e-Farsh by Gelareh Kiazand, Iran
•The Tower of Stars by Muhammad Arzhang, Iran

Miss Golnaz Jamsheed represented Mr. Attar at the ceremony to accept this award on his behalf, which includes a $5,000 cash prize and an official award certificate, presented to him by Board of Trustee member, Mark Amin who chaired this year’s Film Festival Committee. His acceptance speech, read by Miss Jamsheed began as follow: “Nowruz Greetings. I have started with the word Nowruz, as we are gathered here because of it. Nowruz is Iran’s most important holiday, I cherish it and I am proud to be an Iranian. I am pleased to be part of this celebration because you are gathered here for and because of your Iranian heritage.” He concluded by thanking the Foundation and some of his friends who helped him with creating the film. The festival was produced by Society of Cinema and Arts (www.sociarts.com).

Following the Award Ceremony and Reception, the Premiere of Zal and Rudabeh, a beautiful performance by the Djanbazian Dance Company, a contemporary dance theater work of Persian born Armenian and multiple awards -winning choreographer Anna Djanbazian was presented to the public who had reserved their FREE tickets. The performance of Zal and Rudabeh, a timeless tale of warring countries, forbidden romance and the transcendental power of love, presented in form of dramatic “naqqali”, traditional Persian storytelling, with guest narrators Shahla Sarokhani and Kenwa Li Newell, was truly mesmerizing and each artist performing deserves to be acknowledged.

The next day, Sunday, March 15th, the Los Angeles Times Central Courtyard at LACMA was transformed into an outdoor “concert hall”, with continued FREE programming for the public, beginning at 1 p.m. with Dr. Amin Banani; Professor Emeritus of Persian and History, UCLA, who spoke of the significance of Nowruz and recognizing it as the Festival of World Renewal. His talk was followed with a 2-hour performance by the talented Namâd Ensemble, a Persian classical group, performing pieces from their most recent album, Ossyan, a tribute to the famous Persian poets, Foroogh Farrokhzad and Siavash Kasraei. A live broadcast of the performance was provided by KIRN670AM Radio Iran, which was heard by many of their listeners worldwide. Special thanks to their management and for their continuous generous support of all of the cultural activities within the Persian community.

Simultaneously, as part of LACMA’s Andell Family Sundays program, several children’s programs were provided on the grounds of LACMA, including story reading from the Shahnameh, telling of the kings and heroes of ancient Iran, hand painting, as well as Persian calligraphy illustration by the talented Mr. Zia Erfanian.

Throughout both days, a beautiful Haft-sin table, the traditional spread for Nowruz, was on display, along with guides and literature that detailed the meaning and symbolism behind the custom for curious visitors.

LACMA’s acknowledgement of the importance of the Iranian culture in Southern California by participating in this Nowruz celebration and generously facilitating these activities are highly respected and appreciated. Special thanks and gratitude to Dr. Linda Komaroff, Curator of Islamic Art and Department Head, Art of the Middle East without whose support, this collaboration would not have been possible.

As part of the Nowruz celebrations and to continue raising awareness within the community, the Foundation has also sponsored several banners, acknowledging the Persian New Year throughout the city of Los Angeles, along the Wilshire Corridor, Miracle Miles District, as well as Westwood Blvd., which will continue being displayed through the end of March 2009. Farhang Foundation plans to continue bringing such festivities and programming to the public, promoting and celebrating the art, culture and heritage of Iranians for the benefit of Iranian-Americans in Southern California, as well as the community at large.

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Comment by Bridget G. on June 3, 2011 at 10:03am
I loved this event. it was beautifully done. One thing i have to say is that please include your non iranian partcipants! The band performance at 3 or 4pm was lovely but i could not hear it people were talking too much. BEsided this We felt excluded when the woman introduced the band and spoke only in persian. I  get it, it is an iranian event but I saw some non iranian faces including my group.
Comment by michael on March 31, 2009 at 5:59pm
Comment by maryam majlesi on March 30, 2009 at 12:42am
We are proud of all of you.
I wish we(my mom and I) could be there..............
Comment by Mehdi Madani on March 28, 2009 at 1:35pm
fantatsic job.....:-)
Comment by Ahoora Mazda on March 25, 2009 at 8:38pm
Great job, Bita. We are really lucky to have people like you and your team on board.
Comment by eliza on March 22, 2009 at 4:22am
Lucky the Iranian in L.A to be able to have cultural days like that.

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