Journey across South Africa: The
Sprit of Rocks and Water
Today is 26 September. I am flying in
the sky and writing this note.
Many people like hearing
stories, and many tell stories- I want to be the story. My art and life
are the same, my life is my art.
In the past 12 years, I’ve traveled to
many lands and dedicated my fish to nature. Canal of Venice, Rock Creek River-
Washington DC, River Thames in London, Seine river in Paris, Lijiang
River in China, Rhein River in Germany, Danube river in Serbia, …
Persian Gulf, are
now permanent hosts of the sprit of my fish.
I also dedicated my fish to South Africa's rivers, Indian and Atlantic
oceans. These fish were born in the streams of my village
and now they swim in the ocean of the global village.
Africa from Sky
The story of my trip
to South Africa began when Simon Max Bannister a young eco artist who
lives in Johannesburg, sent an email at the beginning of this year to
me. He found my website by chance and showed interest in my “River Art”
project. A month ago I sent an email to him saying that I would like to
visit South Africa. He insisted that I must come and would be my guide,
and so the journey begins…
I am very happy that I
have traveled to the most southern region of in South Africa. I arrived in
Johannesburg on September 9. In the airport I saw Max who depicted fish
on a black board and welcomed me. I was proud to see someone in
another part of the world demanding and supporting my art.
Simon Max Bannister
in the airport of Johannesburg
For me it was
important to make this trip, because the first time I received my
passport, because of the domination of the Apartheid regime, I wasn’t
allowed to travel there. Now I am happy to make this journey and my fish
will stay there forever. With this trip the map of my works can be seen
like a cross across the world.
I traveled to the most
western part of USA. When I was there I had a feeling. It was one of the
furthest places I could go from my home. When I called my family I
noticed that the time in Tehran is 12 hours ahead. So when I was in
Seattle I was one day younger.
When I traveled to the
most eastern part of china I felt that the time had past and I was
experiencing a future life. In the most northern part of the world,
summer seemed like winter and at midnight I could see a light in the
late afternoon of my homeland.
In South Africa I
enjoyed spring in autumn. In Iran we start our new year in the first day
of spring and I am happy that on the 22 of September I was in Cape Town
and saw blossoming trees and spring flowers. So this year I experienced
two New Years. We are living in an amazing world! Our ancestors didn’t
experience these facts.
It was a fantastic
journey. Simon Max Banister
planed the trip, and for the whole journey we were together, and in many
cases the outcomes were collaborative works. During this journey he
also used colored earth and soft rock to paint on other rocks. And on
some occasions he added colour to my carvings.
Max usually makes sculptures
with collected waste materials, creates a junk sculpture and replaces
them back in nature. This is part of an initiative called “re”. It asks
you to rethink, reflect, reconnect, recreate and react ( you can find
out more on his website www.re.org.za).
During my journeys
across the globe I tried to see cultural, social and political
environments in relation to nature.
In South Africa I saw
a society that shows a mixture of Africa and the West. I felt still
after many years that the dominating effects of Apartheid are not over;
there is distance and gap between poor and the rich, black and white.
Kate Grogh and
I am not black, nor
white, perhaps something in between. Having this color, I also met many
respected people, mostly white, who try to bring equality. They do their
best to educate the society whose majority is black.
We shouldn’t forget
that regardless of races or richness or poorness, now we face with
global social, political and of course ecological crises.
Our children, like my
little fish cannot survive in a polluted environment.
We must help them to
This is a duty where
there are many hands that need to touch.
The pattern on the skin of a zebra inspired me to realize a project
named “black and white”, where I paint with white color on black skin
and black color on white skin to make them similar.
This can also affect
the life of other creatures.
and collaboration we may be able to build a better environment for us,
other creatures, and of course the next generation.
Works In South Africa
In Africa I created a
diversity of works, including carved stones on riverbeds, rocks on
beaches and rocks in mountains.
My works at Magaliesburg
During our journeys we saw many animals; some of them affected my works.
I carved antelope that is similar to Ibex. I then used my images of
giraffes to make carvings in two locations.
South Africa, like
Iran is a colorful land. In different places I could find rocks and
stone with different colors.
As a personal ritual a
carved many fish on stones and dropped them into the ocean and rivers.
But the most unusual and amazing was a small river with red water. With
time, the plants by river make it red.
When I dropped my fish into this river the colors of the splash were
very interesting. It was like a dream to see the fish under the red
water with a yellow wand in the background, and occasionally the
reflection of blue sky.
I used my new cylinder
seals and printed them on the sands of the beaches.
One of the new
cylinders shows starfish. It was my desire to reflect the stars of
heaven in earth and remind that in the ocean there are millions of
One of the new
cylinders shows a modified symbol to recycle. Max created this sign,
when I was in Iran; he sent me the image via e-mail.
I also painted the
faces of people. The snake is now my
favorite pattern. It is a symbol
of eternity and treasure.
Eve & Pineapple
It is also an
astronomical sign and related to the story of Eve and Adam in paradise.
It is also an
astronomical sign and related to the story of Eve and Adam in paradise.
Another new experience
for me was to use colored earth on the body of a Whale shark. I paint a
three-headed snake on the body of shark.
A three headed snake
for Persian is a dragon and related to dualistic religion of
Zoroastrian. It was symbol of evil. At a later Islamic period, a famous
Persian poet converted this evil power to an evil king who had two
snakes on his shoulder. In a way within Islamic
monotheism, old mythology
survived as now Persians read it. Furthermore, Moslem mystics
interpreted a dragon or any evil symbols such as divas, as our deeds and
Like many times
before, I waited to document the process of how with the tide, when the
water rises, my work vanishes with the waves.
Max and I arranged a
workshop and created a collaborative work with some African children. We
encouraged them to collect waste material and to create music with these
items, a magical way to recreate new life with discarded objects. Max
encourages them to paint with chalk on the rocks, and so they made an
environmental installation. We enjoyed their creativity and dance. It
was a great day.
At Eden campus I used
a video projection and design of a shell spiral on the face of Max. He
usually likes archetypal symbols such as spiral or circle.
extended my project named border, which started in Serbia.
Max says as a South
African, he has European heritage in the family. So having this
background, one can question, which culture is he? The same question can
be raised for larger communities that include people from many
nationalities, do we shape our borders or do borders shape us? The
concept behind this project is that we live within the racial,
geographical, political, social and cultural borders. Despite all
political conflicts, in comparison to past times, now people are more
mobile and so, more mixed cultures will be born.
During this journey I
realized more that despite being in very remote regions in the world now
via new technology we meet virtually with our friends and family to
Max could see and talk
with his girlfriend and I could see and exchange words with my family.
These new possibilities make the trips possible and easier.
I owe more than thanks
to Max and his family who were very kind to me as they deeply respected
what I am doing. I was astonished and surprised for their
gentleness, admiration and generosity.
They provided my
accommodation in Johannesburg and Cape Town and in other locations I
stayed in the homes of their friends and camped thanks to the planning
of Max. We cooked ourselves and washed the dishes! In Iran the door of
my Paradise-garden and family house is open to many young artists who
come there and stay to work. This kindness of Max's family is a
rewarding of my deeds.
Max chose the best
people, environments and locations for my projects and drove more than
two thousands five hundred kilometers to show me these people and
places. Without his willingness it was impossible to realize these
I left two of my fish
at their villa in Cape Town to say thanks to Max's family. One was
presented in the building and the other installed in a stream, which
passes through their garden. And on the morning of my departure 26th
September I dedicated the cylinder with the recycle symbol to Max to say
thanks for everything.
The journey has been a success in all. Ahmad’s mission to spread his
fish around the four corners of the Earth is complete. He has left many
an everlasting moment in his works around South Africa. I feel he has
seen both sides of the communities, from the rich to the poor, city to
wilderness, from the ugly to the beautiful. We have touched many
people’s lives too and left a strong positive message along the way.
Ahmad has been a complete inspiration; I have a resurgence of energy to
focus supremely on my art and its message. He has shown me focus and a
daring determination in what is his passion and life.
Rock and River Spirit
journey - Art and the environment
For this report, which
describes our trip in more detail, I used Max’s calendar of our journey.
I arrived in
Johannesburg on September 9. In the airport I saw Max who depicted fish
on a black board and welcomed me. I stayed in Max's family
house and we had a wonderful dinner with his family, Adam, Paul and
Alison Bannister. After resting for the night, on September 10 we
visited, Johannesburg City: we walk alongside a local market in
Alexander Township. I noticed that they sold pieces of earth. I
discovered that women, who are pregnant, traditionally eat these pieces
of earth. This indicated a link between being a mother and earth. Then we visited
University of Witwatersrand- Origins Centre. In the museum I saw many
example of South African prehistoric and primitive art. The Khoisan
paintings and especially the symbolic carvings on riverbeds fascinated
us. After that we visited
Ingrid Gruin and Chatillon’ s house and garden- were told about spirit
rocks by Credo Mutwa. Ingrid Gruin offered a gift to me. A book named
Adam's Calendar. After lunch we went to
a river named Braamfontein Spruit. I carved my first fish by the river,
which passes through the city. Then we left
Johannesburg and to Magaliesburg- the cradle of human kind- arriving in
the afternoon we settled down and watched the stars… Awoke with first light
and packed up. Max and I then headed out towards the rocks! I made
carvings on the rocks. They showed an animal totem, which is a solar
symbol and an antelope. Max started drawings
in the sand. His works mostly show symbols related to life and eternity.
In Magaliesburg I also
carved some fish along the river. The last piece was a
Goddess of fertility on a large scale laying down catching the sun with
a fish on her head. The fish symbolize fertility, the Goddess, the
virgin; waiting to become impregnated by the water and so would bring
the coming of a new spiritual leader.
After that we drove
over the Magalies pass and headed out to Parys- After a long drive with
a beautiful sunset over the Klein Karoo, we arrived in the extremely
quiet town of Philipolis. Kate Grogh greeted us warmly and gave us
dinner, after which we found comfort in one of the Starry room houses
and recharged... After being introduced
to the community by Kate Grogh of Future Nature we found a location to
practice for a workshop. The workshop included the collection of waste
items, taking them to the prepared location at the top of a nearby
koppie. The Children were then asked to make music with what they had
collected. I chose some of them
and painted their faces. In the meantime the rest were given chalk and
asked to draw particular iconic shapes on the rocks around the location,
such as snakes, suns and stars. This was then followed by the
construction of a “rock snake”. Thereafter we made more music with more
singing and dancing as the sun went down. After descending the koppie
(top of hill) we made a fire, and made more music. The day after we went
to Hogsback. We arrived in at midday, and found the location at the
bottom pool by the Mother and child waterfall.
We both then got to
work… I first carved a fish onto a rock, which I then threw into the
pool. Then I chose a large rock facing the waterfall and carved a mother
and child image, this was a “ mirror of a mirror”.
My fish at the Great fish
Max drew on many of
the rocks with charcoal and the local soft ochre rocks, he drew many
symbols, a “flower of life”, a snake, a fish, and a flame on wood,
bubbles and covered a rock with lines to signify “fences in nature”. We
both then took many photographs of the work, the waterfall and a rainbow
that caught the setting sun. On the 14th
of September we went to the Garden route- Nature’s Valley and were
welcomed by Tasha Weddapohl of the Katumba community. The day after we got
up early to catch sunrise on the beach. I use my cylinders seal and
printed fish, starfish and a sign of recycle on the sand of the beach.
We then walked to the
river mouth along the cliffs, where we found a stranded dead whale shark
that must have been trapped the night before.
I use colored earth
and decided to create my own “mythological creature” and proceeded to
paint a three-headed snake on the body of the shark.
Max drew on many
rocks, using the natural patterns of shells as inspiration. At the end of the day
Max and Tash constructed an "anarchy pyramid" to celebrate the end of
the day and for the coming storm. The day after on
the16th September in the morning I painted Tash's face with red earth,
and took photographs of her with a pineapple. We then headed to Knysna,
went to the beach at the heads. I did fish carvings, while Max collected
waste and focused on the “recreation” process. We after that, we drove
to Eden Campus, Karatara, and were shown around the campus. We then
drove to Willow point in Sedgefield to stay in a rondavel hut.
On the 17th
September we went to visit Eden Campus and I had a lecture and presented
my article titled Art and Environment. On the 18th
September from Willow point we drove to the beach near Witsand. We were
met by rain, however went to the beach and saw three humpback whales.
The day after, we went to the beach early to catch the sunrise. After
waiting for the sun to come over a cloud, we were happy for its warmth
as it lit the whole beach in yellow light. We then walked along the
beach finding locations for artworks.
The tide was low and I
found a beautiful pool by the beach, which I then proceeded to populate
with my fish. I carved a snake, which Max coloured with bright red
earth. Max drew on many stones, following natural shapes and contours.
On the tides return we
took photographs of our work being covered by the ocean. We then walked
into the sand dunes to get a good perspective of the huge beach.
I also hid one my fish
in the sand near a tree and printed a snake on the sand.
On the 20th
September we drove to the most Southern point in Africa at Cape Aghulus.
We walked down to the furthest rocks and got to work.
We worked on many
pieces, the highlight being the throwing of a fish into another
rock-pool- we managed to catch the splash of the fish. After this we
then decided to get to Cape Town.
We drove past
Muizenburg beach and saw that the water was a brown colour. We
presumed it was caused by some pollution. More
We did some cylinder
rolls that looked dramatic with the coloured water. Later that night we
went to Cape Town to catch some nightlife, which we found on Long
Street. A new band called “When John met Wendy” had their debut gig,
which was nice different music and interesting crowd.
In Cape Town one day
we went for a walk up the mountain near Kalk Bay. What was interesting
for me was the red colour of water caused by the mineral deposits of the
local Fynbos. More
We explored a deep
cave and we each made a carving by candlelight. We then descended just
in time for nightfall.
On the 22nd
September we went to University of Cape Town (UCT) looking for the art
Faculty. We found that it was on a different campus in Cape Town itself.
So we went and made an appointment to see Kurt Campbell the next day at
UCT Michaelis School of fine art. Then we then met Max’s friend, Damon
Cullinan and he took us to a stream flowing from Table Mountain and I
carved two hands on the black slate rock. More
September we then drove into the Redhill Settlement Village. We
approached a group sitting round a fire. One of the women had orange
ochre on her face, I questioned her what it was and they showed us the
local clay rock. A man then decided to crush some with water and paint
his face to demonstrate; he then painted my face too.
This was quite amusing
for the people watching and so we seemed to be welcomed by the
community. We then ventured deeper into the village, were welcomed to
see inside some people’s shacks (houses). We met a young man by the name
of Steven and asked if he would like to be part of the Zebra hand
project. Max drew with charcoal and rock on some of the rusted
corrugated iron, while I carved giraffes into a large rock.
On the way back I
propose about establishing an environmental art center in South Africa.
To transform waste to art, this has a strong message that speaks for the
preservation of the environment. We also discussed how an art house/
gallery could be made in a local village and serve to uplift the
community financially, mentally and environmentally.
September was the last day that I stayed in Cape Town. We went for
a walk back up the mountain and found a stream with red water. We were
both very interested in the water colour as it is very unusual and
creates interesting settings for artworks. I took many photographs and
did many fish rock water splashes.
Max set about making a
frog from waste that he collected on the walk. Once complete he set
it in stream and took photographs. I then left one of my pre-carved fish
in the stream.
I then carved two
footraces on a red rock on the pathway. Then near the bottom of the
trail I did another giraffe.
He made a bird ...
Max fashioned a crow
from the rest of the waste that he found. Throwing into into the sky,
catching it “mid flight”. More
We then went back to
Simons Town where I placed his remaining carved fish in the stream of
Max's parent’s garden.
In the 26 September I
flew back to Johannesburg and from there, to Dubai. I will then fly back
to my home in the mountains of Tehran in Iran.