Hand-drawn art re­mem­bers fam­ily

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS ETHERIDGE

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.

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