I don’t know if you’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Oscar-baiting Argo or Showtime’s once-great Homeland, but while well-crafted, their largely cardboard depictions of Iranian people as fanatical, bloodthirsty, anti-American yahoos has inspired me to pay tribute to some of the most caring, creative and community-minded people I know, in a series I am calling To Iran, with Love.

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Keyvan Mahjoor

Allow me to introduce my dear friend Keyvan Mahjoor. A world-class artist from the ancient Persian city of Isfahan, Keyvan has not set foot in his homeland in over thirty years, but his history soars in the brilliant sky of his mind, destined to be reborn on a bare canvas.

When Keyvan was a boy, he fell under the spell of the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe. These legendary people have been migrating through Iran for centuries, blazing through the potholed deserts and road-less mountains on horseback in their madly colored clothes as they herd thousands of bleating sheep across vast swaths of land, with a posse of spitting camels, braying donkeys and barking dogs.

Bakhtiari Tribe outside of Isfahan

Bakhtiari Tribe outside of Isfahan

One summer, when the tribe traveled through Isfahan, Keyvan’s equally enthralled father befriended an imperial Bakhriari chief. Over the next few years, whenever his tribe would pitch their black, goatskin tents on the outskirts of the big city, the chief and his personal entourage of wives, children, servants and water-pipes would knock at the Mahjoor family’s front door and bring the wilderness into their home.

Their orderly house turned to chaos. Children ran wild, servants took over the kitchen and water-pipes choked the air. They would sit in a circle, talking about the animals, their tribe and amazing travels, blowing smoke. Draped in vivid layers, the women and children were like moving flowers through the rooms. For a budding artist, it was a dream come true.

'Family Portrait with a Horse' by Keyvan Mahjoor

‘Family Portrait with a Horse’ by Keyvan Mahjoor

Years later, in his sunlit studio in Montreal, Keyvan painted a very bright light that illuminated his childhood living room and opened directly to the sky, with no ceiling, roof or door.

For a dose of Keyvan Mahjoor’s captivating drawings, please click here and FRIEND him on Facebook. You will be transported!

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