Hand-drawn art remembers family
Leuli Eshraghi has found solace in honouring his slain family members through art.
The 28-year-old never met his Baha’i grandparents or aunt, who were murdered in their homeland of Iran in 1983 and later had their graves desecrated. But he felt a strong connection to them through his parents.
‘‘My family from outside can’t go to Iran for political reasons as they’re part of a religious minority, the Baha’i people . . . I’m not a practitioner at all but it’s just really interesting looking at it through a human rights perspective.’’
Eshraghi has been researching customary mourning practices from both pre and postcolonisation times.
His hand-drawn works have been more than a year in the making and are now on display.
Eshraghi says it is about paying tribute to his family.
‘‘In a sense . . . giving context to their life and honouring and correcting the record with some dignity.’’
He says his family members were persecuted and eventually killed for their religious choices.
‘‘I think for my family it’s also not about bringing out the skeletons but looking at them in a more abstract way, looking at what they went through, as a means towards healing,’’ he says.
His newest exhibition is called O la aitu laitiiti, which translates to ‘‘those small spirits’’. Eshraghi says it allows him to bring together cultural values from both sides of his Samoan and Persian family.
‘‘Every human being has an experience of loss, it’s a universal thing that I’m addressing through my personal experiences.’’
Baha’i is the largest of religious minorities in Iran, with more than 300,000 people practising there. There are more than 6 million Baha’i worldwide.
He says those practising Baha’i, a religion more than 200 years old, face severe persecution from outsiders despite being peace-loving people.
Eshraghi’s work will be on display in the cellblocks of the old police station on Ponsonby Rd, now an art exhibition space called Studio One Toi Tu.
The exhibition is on now until February 11 and the day after he will open his second exhibition Queer Resistance at RM Gallery at 307 Karangahape Rd. Both shows are included in the Auckland Pride Festival.
He will be living in Ponsonby during his five-week artist in residency with Pacific arts trust Tautai.