By SAWYER POLLITT A&E Section Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Photo Credit: Pamela Karimi, Michael Kilbride, Gabriella Barthe “I’ve reached the end of this great history and all the land will fill with talk of me. I shall not die, these seeds I’ve sown will save my name and reputation from the grave.” – Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi, 940-1020 C.E. This line ends the Shahnameh, the Persian Book of Kings, an epic poem that has captured the hearts and minds of readers across the world with its blend of sacred history and legend. In the centuries since its inception, the Shahnameh has become the backbone of Iranian literary and cultural canon. Even today this national epic, on par with the Iliad and the Odyssey, inspires artists and poets alike from Tehran all the way to North Dartmouth. And it is here at UMass Dartmouth where Dr. Pamela Karimi (Associate Professor of Art History) and her ARH-359 undergraduates conceived and executed the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ latest exhibition, Contemporary Iranian Art & The Historical Imagination. This show unites two worlds, one world of 16th century antiquity and another of 21st century socio-political commentary on the modern Iranian state. Entering the gallery, it is clear that this show is designed with a purpose. Jagged and off-kilter geometric shapes painted on the walls of the space break-up the stark white surfaces normally found in an art gallery. A quiet stream of water can heard from a video installation in the back room, and it is almost as if one has left UMass Dartmouth and entered a space all its own. The show covers topics that dominate socio-political thought in Iran. Artwork that represents acts of self-censorship, political revolution, the rights of women and the celebration of Iranian culture meld with ancient motifs and aesthetics. Throughout the exhibit, perspectives of Iran and the greater Persian region are displayed through mixed media, paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture and video works. These mediums cooperate to tell the history of Iran to an audience who’s only exposure to this ancient land may be this very room. However, it is important to note the piece chosen as the logo of the show. Painted by artist Mojtaba Tabatabaei, this work depicts the first democratically elected leader of Iran, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, with his face blurred and his mouth obscured by a rose. This deliberate obfuscation represents the coup d’état engineered by the British MI6 and American CIA in 1953 that forever changed the future trajectory of Iran. This painting is placed on the only “ruined” wall of the exhibit with broken brick and crumbling mortar. Which is, according to Karimi, a callback to 19th century orientalism. A style that depicts the Middle East as a land forgotten by time – exotic and dangerous. This intentionally contradicts with the message of the show, celebrating the diversity of Iranian culture and art through the centuries.