Hoping Against Hope: Interview with Nafiseh and Bahareh, Iranian Multidisciplinary Artists

Beauty in Brokenness

Nafiseh Khoshandam and Bahareh Ghaderi are from Mashhad in Iran. They have known each other since high school and began their collaboration in 2010. They have worked on many different projects including public art installations, murals, and photography. They designed their very first jewelry collection, Hoping Against Hope, to call attention to societal issues and express compassion for their culture and heritage. Their inaugural show was in Istanbul.

When they were searching for a gallery to host their Hoping Against Hope collection, the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan began. During the exhibition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine started. This context found strong resonance with the collection as it foregrounds the intertwined fates of humanity and the gravitas of the situation. Hoping Against Hope is all about the decline in culture due to unrest, geopolitics, and restrictions on liberties. You can read about another Iranian artist, Siah Armajani, and his response to the restrictions here.

Human Connections

The main source of inspiration for Nafiseh and Bahareh are people and their stories. For example, Reyhaneh Jabbari, who was executed in 2014 for killing her alleged rapist. In the two weeks after this, the artists made a sculpture in her memory, Forgive that Late Innocent Child. Iranian law is such that the victim’s family can prevent the death sentence, hence the title. In the piece, they depict a little girl’s feet on the execution stool.

Intricate Bronze

The artists use small segments of motifs from ancient goldsmith workshops and deliberately create a “damaged” effect in bronze. This first piece is embossed with a flower, a symbol of femininity.

In the piece below, the artists try to represent the infinity of history. Beneath that, the second artwork embodies silence with a purpose.

If you want to learn more about Nafiseh and Bahareh, check out their website, and here you can explore more pieces from their Hoping Against Hope collection.

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