Art by Samira Abbassy
For years, long-distance phone calls to Iran were exorbitantly expensive. This was before the digital age, before smartphones and apps that made it possible to speak and connect several family members on a group video call. Travelers back and forth between Iran were also few and far between, but any time an acquaintance was making the trip, they made sure to tell their friends and neighbors in case they wanted to send a small gift or a letter. At those times, I’d watch my mother write for days, sitting at the dining room table in our tiny apartment, pouring her heart out to her sisters in page after page. I would watch her and wonder what she was putting down on paper, what could be so important? She would send pages and pages off to them, they would send just as many pages back to her, and she’d spend almost as many days reading as she had spent writing.
Years later when my younger aunt arrived in this country from Iran, she brought with her my mother’s letters, stacks of them. My mother also had stacks of her letters stored away, and brought them out to see how they corresponded to one another. “What do they say?” I asked. They were letters filled with everything they’d probably have wanted to say to them if they’d been sitting in the same room: Their hopes and wishes, their worries and ambitions for all of us, their fears, their sorrows, and small victories. Through the worst and best times, they wrote to each other. Somehow, my mother and her sisters had always found a way to share how they were feeling, to hope together, worry together, to dream for a better future together—no matter the distance. They’d kept up their correspondences for years, despite the time constraints of their lives and the distance between them. Most interesting of all, peppered throughout their letters was this sense of hope that someday, we would all be in the same place again—not temporarily, but just as before. “How did the two of you know? We could barely speak on the phone at the time, what made you both think one day we’d all be living close to each other again? That’s a lot of hope!” I’d say every time the topic of those letters would come up.
Mountains may not reach each other, but people always do, my aunt or mother would say.
Spring / Summer 2023
The Iran Issue
Golafarin Razi was born in Tehran, Iran and raised in Tehrangeles (Los Angeles, California). Having spent her most of her life either in Iran or surrounded by one of the most well-known Iranian diaspora communities in the world — Iranian history, culture, arts and politics have become the tapestry of her life. Golafarin loves studying, discussing, and discovering new things about Iran.
Samira Abbassy (b.1965 Ahwaz, Iran) graduated from Canterbury College of Art, Kent, UK. She moved to New York in 1998, where she co-founded the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and EFA Studio Center. Abbassy is known for her figurative oil on gesso panel paintings depicting the human figure, mythological creatures, and scenes of war. Over the course of her thirty-year career her work has been shown internationally and has been acquired by private and public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rubin Museum, and NYU’s Grey Art Gallery (all in NY); The British Museum; Farjam Collection, Dubai; Devi Foundation, New Delhi; and the Omid Foundation, Iran. Abbassy has been awarded grants and fellowships by Yaddo; Pollock-Krasner Foundation; Joan Mitchel Foundation; Saltonstall Foundation; NYFA; and the University of Virginia.