Wednesday, 7 August 2013

To Iran and back via Wembley part III, the Grand Finale




The time has come to draw a conclusion on this rather rambling multi-instalment post about the tale of my first trip to Iran, and perhaps try to explain what's Wembley got to do with it all.

ready made kamiz from a Wembley shop
My quest for wearable items (clothes that I could wear feeling comfortable both on a personal and on a cultural level) led me to bump right into the multicultural nature and history of London as well as my own: the material I bought from an Indian fabric shop in Wembley to make myself some kind of dress, was wrapped in a newspaper that was the Indian version of a British one and the article printed on it was about ...Italian politics!...

I have started this post talking about the curtains that I was re-purposing  to "set up a studio in my kitchen", which came from the Ikea store in Wembley.

Yes, Wembley isn't  just a place full of ethnic shops (fabric or otherwise); it's home to one of the biggest and strongest global brands there are in this contemporary world: IKEA, and when I say home I mean HOME, yes, to many of us, IKEA means HOME and to many of us home is synonymous with FAMILY.

So armed with my 'provisional clothes' and my 'janamaz' off I went to meet my Iranian family, in particular those members who didn't live in Teheran, but in the Mozandaran region, on the shores of the Caspian Sea
The first of many 'receptions' that were given in our honour in Iran

Some members of the family accompanied us all the way from Tehran to Amol

A view of the Mount Damavand on the way to Amol

A young girl proudly advertising the thriving salmon farming business of the Caspian Sea area
lots of young relatives in a portrait taken in the village of  Gazane, where the family originates
   








Amongst the presents I was given, as the newly met "bride" at some kind of belated "wedding reception" was a lovely pair of golden filigree earrings which had been specially commissioned by my mother in law to welcome me into the 'family' after nearly twenty tears





I probably have already mentioned how I (and I suspect many of us) have very mixed feelings about  Ikea. I feel that Ikea is a mirror of the way we live : a rich minority of the world starts something small but powerful, which then expands into something bigger and leads inevitably to exploitation of some kind and we all play this game both as victims and perpetrators.
Ikea is appealing: the furniture is flat packed, but of supposed quality. Clean cut, no (much) frills, modernist/ modern,  kind of ecological.  It signifies democratic design: how many of you remember the V&A exhibition of a few years ago (actually it was 1997, how time flies!) about Carl and Karin Larsson the creators of the so called   'Swedish style'? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Karin-Larsson-Creators-Swedish-Style/dp/1851772006/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375544451&sr=8-1&keywords=Swedish+style+Larsson
It was sponsored by IKEA and explicitly tried to link Swedish modernist style with the IKEA brand and ideology.
Yes, there are doubts about the credentials of its founder (suspected of Nazi sympathies by some); yes, we don't know whether somewhere along the line they employ child labour despite their claims that they don't, we are not quite sure about the concept and the products themselves and so on... and yet Ikea means home but a 'new kind of home,' a free one, one steeped in modernist, liberal, Nordic style, social democratic ideology. A caring, yet liberal home, where the kids are free to roam just as they are in the shop, where unlike Victorian British children they can be heard and seen ...it's modern: it's Britain leaves the Victorians and meets Europe along with Morris and ...cheap... (mind you, to a point, you get what you pay for, as they say...), it means that you can dream of starting a home, a family, or even an affordable life as a single person, but part of a bigger community

But Iran was different...
No much need for flat pack (or indeed any) furniture, sleeping on gorgeous carpets as a treat, on the roof of one of the house we went to visit in Amol
The nomadic spirit is ever present and you can feel it in the air, in the readiness to set up a table or a bed almost anywhere, more often than not with stylish implements that seem to materialize out of thin air...

Yet the hunger for modernity, and/or westernization is ever present in such an ancient yet very young country (due to the prevalence of young people in relation to the overall size of the population)
Here is a picture of my family and I with another young relative in a supermarket he owns in Amol
The check out area decorated with old Persian imagery
Above is another example of how they are always trying to re-invent themselves and their identities, by picking and choosing bits of their past
And these are two other  favourite pictures of mine featuring again a traditional style setting, where political and historical icons are placed alongside pictures of  family members often "photoshopped": highlighting crucial moments of their lifes, such as marriages or pilgrimages/trips or just  showing random bits,  taken in one of those "country houses" where they go back to their roots and relax



I am not always abreast of what happens in the international markets, and how these things work in "real life" therefore was a bit puzzled by how 'real' coke could be found in Iran notwithstanding the sanctions and had not a clue whether IKEA was allowed there.
So I was a bit surprised, when some other young relatives who came to greet us good-by at the airport, brought us some more presents carried in bags from ...guess where?...



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