A night of Persian love poetry sounded dreamy so I enlisted two beloved friends (one Persian) and all masked-up and socially distanced we attended ‘Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love’.
Having been blessed by growing up in a household where my mother recited poetry and my father often sang, poetry as a part of life was not a foreign concept. I was, however, surprised by how much a part of the everyday ritual of communication poetry is to those cultures that have been touched by Persian influence, specifically as showcased on this night by performers of Afghan background.
We are given multiple lessons on the night; in pronunciation, in poetic rhythm, in history, geography, geopolitics … I am sure I was not the only one in the audience surprised by just how mighty the Persian Empire had once been.
The performance was about love however, and not politics, though Bibi Goul Mossavi recited a heart-touching love poem to sisters who were oppressed (or worse) across the globe. (Others on stage were Jawad Yaqoubi and Mahdi Mohammadi).
The staging was delightful, poetry written in light on the stage to be translated for us into English, while framed vignettes of immediately identifiable and whimsical Persian horsemen, maidens and princes were morphed into framed, Facetime phone-calls to mothers, brothers and others…. All accompanied by effortless poetry that slid with ease into the conversations.
While some of Henry’s readers may consult the stars to discern their future (a zodiac of Babylonian ancestry), those who were brought up in Afghanistan might turn to a poetry vendor at the marketplace - selecting a poem randomly from a trove carried by the merchant.
Hafez, Rumi. Omar Khayan. Shirazi … a night of beautiful words from these philosophical poets and more.
Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, introduced the performance, welcoming the audience to Country and sharing her own love poem.
‘Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love’
As we know, though poetry in Afghanistan flowed, under the Taliban regime (predominantly from from 1996 to 2001), all performances of music and dance—and even listening to or watching music and dance —were forbidden as ‘un-Islamic’!
This is my segue into this week’s selection from the SCCI, where author Vivian Bi talks of another repressive political regime, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and how it bleached the colour and soul of the Chinese population in exchange for conformity, standardisation and obedience, enforcing a utilitarian dress code – amongst so many other controlling strategies – that denied sensory pleasure in day to day life.
(*Of additional interest is comparing the influence of a politically repressive regime with one that celebrates the rights of the individual, having just witnessed an extreme expression of this cultural manifestation in the riots on Capitol Hill. And yes, the refusal to wear masks is very much a part of that political statement.)