Painting The Persian Book of Kings Today - Ancient Text and Modern Images

By fatima zahra hassan (ZAHRA)

Painting The Persian Book of Kings Today - Ancient Text and Modern Images

Ranked with some of the world’s greatest literature like the Mahabharata and the Iliad, the Shahnama or ‘Persian Epic of Kings’ is at the heart of a traveling exhibition that opened at London’s Princes Foundation Gallery in December 2010. The ‘Contemporary Shahnama Millennium Painting Exhibition’ celebrates the importance of the epic poem a thousand years after the great Iranian poet Firdausi composed it in 1010 CE. Invoked over the centuries as “a political statement against power and tyranny”, Shahnama’s concern with universal values and deepening of human conscience makes it an enduring text for all times. There is much that is groundbreaking in the new readings of the Shahnama and this is exemplified in the essays and images of the exhibition. Representations of the epic’s main hero Rostam, for example, range from his traditional depictions as heroic warrior, to comical macho, digital war machine, and Talibanic dev. Likewise, some of the Catalogue essays unveil a surprising facet of Shahnama women. Bold and confident, these women show remarkable perseverance as individuals, taking a stand especially when it comes to choosing their husbands, or raising sons as single parent. The essays in the Exhibition Catalogue further examine the epic’s importance in a turbulent region spanning Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran—a region that largely constitutes the poem’s theatre of action and is the epicentre of extremist Islamic insurgencies today that are both a product and response to the ‘global war on terror’. A vibrant array of artists and academics from Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Iran, India, Pakistan and Russia who created this exhibition are testament to Shahnama’s relevance in a nascent global culture where the creation of new consciousness is a heroic act.
First edited by Manfred Milz, Suroosh Irfani, 11/2010; Talking Tree Book UK., ISBN: 9780956 746702


  • publication
  • shahnama
  • shahnameh
  • persianbookofkings
  • zahrahassan
  • fatimazahrahassan
  • talkingtreebooks
  • shahnamah
  • cambridgeshahnamaproject
  • contemporaryshahnama
  • talkingtreepublishers

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6 Years ago

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About the artist

Fatima Zahra Hassan is a Cambridge-based visual artist, educator and a researcher. She is trained in Indian, Mughal & Persian painting techniques with a focus on Asian and Middle Eastern Art and art of book and ornament design. Zahra is a graduate of National College of Arts Lahore, Royal College of Art and the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts London. She has taught for more than 15 years in the UK and abroad.


42 works in paintingillustration

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London, UK United Kingdom
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