Torn and alone during the uprisings in Iran 2022, I gathered together artists in the Iranian Diaspora in South Africa. We sat at a cafe in Cape Town & brainstormed on how to collaborate on a work in solidarity with our homeland. We thought of all the many activist gestures we were seeing from Iran on social media. Among them, a proverb stood out to us.
*When you fold a thousand cranes, your wish will come true*
Students at Gilan University, Iran, had decorated their campus with paper birds and messages. We decided to echo them and do the same. After some paper-bird-folding research, we sent out an open invite for people in Cape Town to come join us fold birds. The outcome was heartwarming. Friends came to participate and share their handiwork. Other Iranians showed up too, all hungry for a space to gather and share all the emotions we were collectively feeling on our own.
Before our second gathering, we heard the news of another child caught in the gunfire of Iran’s crackdown on the protests. This little boy captured our hearts with his tribute to the God of the Rainbow. His sweet and gentle rebellion quickly became a new symbol of the revolution. A rainbow.
And so we decided to string the birds together in the colors of the rainbow.
To me it also speaks to the intersectionality of the movement, considering the rights of the queer community in Iran, and that the revolution was sparked by the death of a minority woman. I’m so hopeful Iran will be the symbol of intersectional human rights, listening to the leadership of women.
What made this project super special was the amount of community involvement it generated. My team of friends in Johannesburg got together and hosted a paper-bird-folding event there. A lovely coffee shop venue was donated and old friends from even Botswana came through. Neighbors dropped off folded birds with messages of hope and love. We received these paper birds by post and they were part of the installation in Cape Town.