Iran in Black & White | A pictorial exploration

First Iranian Kindergarden B&W photograph of children in uniform

Bersabé Kindergarten, First Iranian Kindergarten in Tehran, Persia, March 1939 | SOURCE

Continuing with the Friday theme of Iranian centric photo posts, let’s look at some B&W photographs.

This first one is of the students and teachers of the Bersabé Kindergarten ( کودکستان برسابه، اولین کودکستان ایرانی), the first modern kindergarten in Tehran, Iran. Taken on Sunday, March 19, 1939. (Great background info re the provenance of this kindergarden at the source.)

Jahan Phalavan Takhti Olympic Gold Winner (1956), World Wrestling Champion (1959 and 61), and winner of Pahlavani Armlet in 1957, 58 and 59 practising with a pair of light-weight Meels

Jahan Pahlavan Takhti Olympic Gold Winner (1956), World Wrestling Champion (1959 and 1961), and winner of Pahlavani Armlet in 1957, 1958 and 1959 | SOURCE

The traditional Persian martial arts (pahlavani) is a combination of weight-lifting, weight-maneouvering, weight-juggling and wrestling. The location (the gym, so to speak) where men went to practice the art and sport of phalvani were/are called “zoorkhaneh” which literally means “power houses” or “houses of power.” Traditionally, the Persian martial arts practices are accompanied with a live, very rhythmic music played on Persian drums called donbak (also called tombak, donbak, dombak, or zarb — a goblet drum hailing from ancient Iran.)

The happy athlete in the photograph is a champion pahlavan posing with a pair of light-weight meels (traditional tools used in pahlavani) resting on his shoulder. He has the title of “jahan pahlavan” which literally means “Pahlavan of the World.”  (In Iran, if someone acted more aggressively than his circumstances might dictate, one would say: Who does he think he is? A pahlavan?)

Persian ambassador to the U.S with his German wife n Washington D.C circa 1910 vintage B&W photo

Charge D’affair of Persia avec German spouse in Washington D.C. circa 1910 (Qajar era)

This is a photo of one Mirza Ali Gholi Khan (Qajar Persian embassador to the U.S.) and his American hailing from the Boston high society wife, Florence Breed, in Washington D.C.  From the looks of the photo, this is Edith Wharton era. The age of innocence! Mirza Ali Gholikhan was among the very first Iranian ambassadors to the United States – circa 1910 – and his official title was Charge d’affair of Persia.  Here’s another photo of the Mirza Gholikhan and his spouse.

Elizabeth Taylor in a coffee house in Iran - Circa the 1960's? vintage Persian pix

Elizabeth Taylor in Iran – Circa the 1960’s?

There are a number of fun photos of Elizabeth Taylor’s trip to Iran — circa sometime in the 60s — floating around the Internet. This one shows her in what I’m judging to be a tourist type of “Persian” coffee house.  My main thought bubble is: Posture Liz! Posture!

Female Persian Musicians with Eunuch - Qajar Era black and white donbak santoor

Female Persian Musicians with Eunuch – Qajar Era

Here’s a priceless shot of a group of Qajar era (remember the Qajar dyansty and quince kookoo?) female musicians. I detect two donbaks, one santoor, and what seems to be a mini organ. Kindly, do check out the brows and unibrows action. (The gentleman is a eunuch – I’m afraid and sadly suspect.)

Schoolgirls Persian Iranian Young vintage pix BFF Best Friends snapshot

My mom and her best friends – Iranian schoolgirls – circa 1959

Let’s end with a shot of  lovely fresh-faced Iranian schoolgirls circa 1959. And not just any random group of girls. This is a snapshot of my mom and her best friends – circa 1959 – in 10th grade, Iran. Of the 6 friends: all got college degrees. 4 became medical doctors. 5 became mothers. 4 still live in Iran. 2 I called aunts. All 6 still remain good friends. My mom is the one second from the left. She and the one friend all the way to the right and the other friend all the way to the left were BFFs and known as the 3 musketeers. This is one of my favorite pix of all time.

Wait! What’s the sound?  Oh, it looks like the school bell is ringing! Perfect for tanbal students like me to take off for recess.

So until  next time: Happy Weekend!

.

heart black white graphic thumbnail illustration digital

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “Iran in Black & White | A pictorial exploration

  1. Hello there – I love your Iran stories and the photographs of your mum and her friends, thank you for sharing and for opening a window to all the different “lives” representing a country and making it more than a place on the map where everyone wears black.

  2. Hi! Wonderful photos. I actually wanted to add a slight correction regarding Ali-Kuli Khan, the Ambassador. I’ve read a number of books about him and his family, his daughter Marzieh Gail was an author and wrote fantastic books about their life. His wife was actually Florence Breed, she was American and a Boston society girl. She actually went against a lot of Victorian society at the time by marrying a Persian man, and they traveled together around the world, they were both quite adventurous. I would really hesitate to describe either of them as having “spaced-out melancholy”. 😉 Another little known fact is that Ali-Kuli Khan was a member of the Baha’i Faith, a persecuted minority in Iran (at that time and currently), so it was astounding that he managed to be an Ambassador. Florence was given a Persian State Title as Muravvihu’s-Saltanih (Who Gives the Kingdom Life), in recognition of her services to Persia, a distinction never before been conferred on a foreign woman.

    • Dear Sholeh, thank you for pointing out the identity and correct provenance of the spouse of Ali Kuli Khan (his name is spelled so many different ways.) I now understand where I was getting the Edith Wharton vibe from – since Florence Breed was part of the Boston high society!

      Their life certainly sounds quite interesting. And I was most interested to read the tidbits you shared. How fascinating! I will edit and correct the info re Florence accordingly. Re the spaced-out air of melancholy : that’s just my impression, solely judging from the photos and without any scholarly or otherwise research – and I certainly don’t give it the credence of fact, nor do I think it will be taken as such by anyone who reads here. I would normally not edit what is simply my take on a matter, but since I get the feeling that it is something of importance to you, and I would like to fully respect that, I will delete it.

      I appreciate the feedback, history and info!

      • dear both – love the discussion, really fascinating, I actually looked at the photograph a good while trying to see anything germanic – as if one could from a photo – I loved the description spaced-out melancholy – solely from looking at the photo with absolutely no knowledge of anything relevant historically 🙂

  3. Aw I love this series Azita! Thanks so much for sharing the pic of your mom and friends. She’s so beautiful and they are a very accomplished bunch. Thanks also for educating me about Persian wrestling. Very cool. Your pride in your culture and history is contagious. Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. Wow. It all resonates from within when you know where you’re connected no matter whether you had experience it or not. Love the chronology, wish it could continue more maybe even as far as present??
    Thank you for sharing the treasures we all like to cherish.
    Have an awesome & warm weekend.
    Xo

    • For sure. I do hope to make the theme apply to current and contemporary Iran as well. Lots of cool things to share! Sorry for belated response by now too late to wish you a happy weekend but hope it was good! 🙂

    • Oh you made me laugh. I swear. Love the term “mystery tour of Iran”! I do hope to continue it with some minor detours here and there. Thank you! 🙂

    • It can mean hero in a way I suppose but there is similar word “gahraman” which actually means hero. Why do you ask? Does it ring a bell or have you encountered it somewhere?

      And my mom gets her looks from me! 😉 xo

      • Yes, I know of a Malay word “pahlawan” (with W) which means hero. It’s interesting to find it could have originated from an Iranian word. Goes to tell you, how inter-connected different cultures are. I find that comforting. XOXO

        PS. You and your mom got them from your grand mom, how’s that? Lol.

  5. Fascinating pictures! About the pahlavan fighters, my husband, who is from india, says that in hindi a “pahlavan” is a way of calling a strong guy. The persian culture is definitely present in many other ways in india: among them the “irani cafes” which are reputed in many cities, like Mumbay, he says.
    We look forward to learn more about irani traditions through your posts!

    • Yes! That’s how we use the word “pahlavan” as well. to refer to a strong guy. But sometimes used sarcastically. Like if someone can’t lift something or whatnot, someone might say : what a pahlavan!

      I do so wish to one day make a good long trip to India and now will have to add visiting “irani cafes” to the list of things to visit.

      thank you so much for sharing this with me. I loved it!

  6. Love the ambassador’s photo. His coat and his tunic look fabulous of course! The photo of Liz is a gem. I feel for the poor eunuch although I find that figure fascinating and inhuman at the same time. What a nice group of lovely ladies! Five BFFs? Your mother is very lucky!

    • I know, it’s heartbreaking thinking about the fate of the eunuchs. I don’t think this was ever a tradition in the Western world, was it? But on to a much nicer less castrating topic: yes my mom really lucked out with her friends! 🙂

      • Oh, of course! Thank you for pointing this out, Candace! Looks like the practice has a deep and eclectic history.

  7. What a delight to see “The Khan” and his wife Florence Breed in your post. Both of them much beloved by the Baha’i community, and I think you would really enjoy the writings of their daughter Marzieh Gail who was a scholar, world traveller, writer, biographer, and a translator of impeccable quality. She broke barriers her whole life long. Her stories of growing up in a Persian American family are wonderful. In my own little history project, I recently found Florence’s grave and put up a memorial to her, Marzieh and Ali Kuli Khan on Find a Grave:

    Here is Marzieh: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSmcid=47629018&GRid=112651854&

    Here is Florence: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38929590

    And here is the Khan: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38929590

    I have not yet been able to get a photo of the gravesite of Ali Kuli Khan and when I do, if his name if different on the grave, I’ll change it on the memorial.

    There are bulging files of letters in our Archives from Abdu’l-Baha in Palestine to the early American Baha’is that were translated by Ali Kuli Khan. He was, throughout his long life, invaluable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: