Persia The Giant Empire

With the disintegration of the Mongol II Khan empire in the 1330s a number of small local dynasties appeared, usually only locally effective, and often founded by former Mongol officers and administrators.

The Muzaffarids were considerable patrons of art, including acting as patrons to the great poet Hafiz, but their main activity appears to have been architectural. It is as creators of the southern Iranian school that they will best be remembered.

The great centers of Muzaffarid power were in Yazd, Kirman and Isfahan. From the constructional point of view, two complexes in Yazd are important: the mosque known as the Vaqt-u Sa’at and certain sections of the Jami’ Mosque.

The Jami’ Mosque of Kirman was built in 1349 shortly after the Muzaffarids acquired the city, and its decoration appears fully fledged with no apparent or obvious precursors. Prior to this period, color had been used comparatively sparingly to highlight specific architectural points; glazed bricks were used to create patterns on a field of unglazed bricks, and small strips of glazed terracotta were employed to create a form of strapwork. In the magnificent mausoleum of Uljaytu at Sultaniyya, built before 1317, small sections of complete tile mosaic appear for the first time, but are no preparation for the sheer mass of the tile mosaic which is encountered in the Kirman Jami’ Mosque.

There were very few remaining monuments in Iran which can be attributed to the Jalayirids, but in 1419 they did add the great minaret to the Jami’ Mosque at Shushtar. Its decoration is almost archaic when compared to contemporary Timurid minarets, consisting as it does solely of blue-glazed bricks forming designs in a diaper trellis formation against the unglazed brick minaret shaft. Such decoration took no account of the developments in southern Iran nor of the entire Timurid artistic revolution, and would appear to emphasize the total separation of the Mesopotamian area from the rest of Iran at this time.

The Timurids 1370-1506

Timur used his base in Transoxiana in Soviet Central Asia as the nucleus for a great empire, conquering northeast Iran in the early 1380s, and the remainder
by 1393; thereafter he turned north and penetrated as far as Moscow in
1395, before sacking Delhi in India in 1398, and then moving across half of
Asia to defeat the Ottomans at Ankara in Turkey in 1402.

The advent of Timur himself can generally be regarded as a disaster. In 35 years of campaigning he left an endless trail of death and destruction, only saving the craftsmen from the countless pyramids of skulls which was his custom to erect outside capture cities.

The great glory of the Timurid perior, however, was the magnificent title mosaic work which reached its highest achievement at this time. Under the Muzaffarids, the concept of an overall tile mosaic pattern appeared for the first time, and the palette was considerably extended, but under Timurid patronage the various colors achieved subtlety which was unsurpassed. Each color appeared in a number of slightly varying shades, so that in the flower panels in particular delicate tones were used to give shading and depth to the compositions. The finest examples of this technique appeared in Herat and Samarqand, the two great Timurid capitals, but a number of examples were also to be seen in Iran in the royal foundations at Mahshhad and Khargird, and some superb examples of a slightly more provincial character at Varzana and Isfahan.

Much of this magnificence only appeared in Central Asia and the area around Herat, while deeper within Iran the styles more subject to Persian tradition and adapted to conform to an older usage which nonetheless undoubtedly benefitted from the infusion of these new ideas. Consequently many of the Timurid monuments in Iran show all these characteristics, but are much more restrained
in their use. These developments also continued in the second half of the fifteenth century mainly in the eastern part of the country, because in the west and northwest at this time two Turkmen confederations appeared which effectively blocked the Timurid westward expansion and indeed limited the later Timurids
to Khurasan only.

Abu Ali-Sina

Those who leave a trace in our history are those who leave an impression in our hearts!

Mohammad Ghaffari, known as Kamal-ol-Molk, is one of the most admired and distinct artists of Iran. His artwork has been a gateway to new horizons for generations still to come.

Talent was in his blood, for he was born into a family of artists. He developed an interest in calligraphy (writing) and painting. At an early age in his childhood years, he drew charcoal sketches on the walls of his bedroom which may still be evident in that very house.

Once finishing his primary schooling in Kashan, Mohammad moved to Tehran
to further his studies in Dar-ol-Fonoon School of Art. Among Naseredin Shah’s many visits to the school, he became familiar with Mohammad’s gifted talent and invited him to the court (darbar). During this period, he created over 170 paintings of landscape, royal camps, portraits of important people, and different parts of the palace.

He was first given the title “Naghash Bashi” for his acknowledgements but later with his eminent progress he became known as “Kamal-ol-Molk” (the most valuable worthiness). Kamal-ol Molk is known for a number of his most famous work during his stay at the shah’s court. The most magnificent piece among these is “The Mirror Hall” which took six years to complete (1885-1891). In this lively spirited painting, Naseredin Shah is portrayed sitting in the middle of Mirror Hall of Golestan Palace. The reflection of light and shadow of objects in the mirrors, as well as the reflection of the mirrors in one another, are so delicately painted that the observer is left surrounded by wonders and unspeakable words. He also drew a self portrait in 1920 which is also highly credited.

During Mozaffareddin Shah’s ruling, Kamal-ol Molk was facing undesirable painting requests; but, he dealt with the situation subtly, refusing to accept the offer. This rejection caused tension among both sides. Furthermore, he was falsely accused of stealing two pieces of gold from the palace. His heart could not bear such pain, thus he set out for Europe during which he enhanced his art. Mozaffareddin Shah’s second visit to Europe and the love that he had for his county made him return to Iran after four years.

With the growth of art appreciation in Iran, Kamal-ol-Molk established “Sanaye Mostazrafeh Art School” in Tehran, better known as Kamal-ol-Molk Art School. He introduced a variety of arts such as carpet weaving, mosaic designing, and woodwork to his students. Despite his academic teachings, he also taught his students about life, morals, love, and humanity. The love that he had for the young generation went beyond his professional standards. At many times, he stayed late at school teaching, and selflessly helped poor students in need with a portion of his monthly salary.

With his knowledge and dedication, he trained competent students who have become the famous artists of today, faces like Esmaeel Ashtiani, Ali Mohammad Heidarian, Mohsen Soheili and others. The achievement of these artists received much attention both in Iran and Europe. In 1927, due to further uncompromising with the Pahlavi Dynasty, he resigned from teaching and painting altogether and assigned his position to one of his most acknowledged students, Hussein-Ali Vaziri. Kamal-ol-Molk moved to Neishaboor where he lived the remainder of his life and passed away in 1940 at the age of 93.

Kamal-ol-Molk gave life to the extent and understanding of art in Iran. Iranian painting was limited to Miniature during and before the Qajar Era. Hence, he opened a door of opportunity to the young generation of artists succeeding him. In addition, he is remembered as a man of great value and morals, whose honor and love for his country had no boundary. He has left a piece of his soul in each of his paintings and will remain as a distinct artist in Iran’s history.

The Africa Project: The Trip

As explained in last month’s issue, The Africa Project is a grass roots organization made up of community members who feel compelled to do something to address the AIDS orphan crisis in Africa.

Our group took the first of many trips to Nkandla, located in the Kwa Zulu Natal region of South Africa last month. Although, through the course of our travels our group lost a few members as a result of various traveling difficulties, five representatives from our team made it to Nkandla. The purpose of the first visit was to learn more about our village and their needs. The following are highlights from the trip and potential plans to help the village of Nkandla.

During the trip the team stayed with The Nardini Sisters who are a group that already provide a great deal of social and medical services in the community. Upon arrival, they presented a check for $4,903 to support the children in the community. These funds were raised through the help of our Ukuqala Campaign. Again, great thanks to all of our Ukuqala sponsors!

The team’s first day in Nkandla included a site visit to the Nkandla Hospital where they met with hospital staff and visited the wards. The hospital provides the majority of medical services in the region and the staff is committed to serving the needs of the people. They face many challenges and the most pressing needs seems to be a lack of housing for medical staff who would be willing to come to Nkandla to work. The result of this are shortages of doctors willing to attend to the medical needs of the community.

The Nkandla hospital is also a teaching site for future nurses. Their nursing school’s greatest needs also seems to be housing for both students attending the school and staff needed to teach the program.

During the week, they visited several families. A few of these families are the ones featured in The Orphans of Nkandla documentary where producer and narrator Brian Woods tells the story of three families devastated by AIDS in Africa.

In one instance, they visited a family consisting of three young men who are literally alone in the world. The Nardini Sisters are committed to keeping them in school, so they are providing food and other support for the boys on a regular basis. Their housing is inadequate and as a group, we have determined that a portion of the funds we took over would go to building them a concrete home. The new brick house will be modest, yet stable and will last the family for many years to come. It will consist of three rooms and is roughly 300 square feet. The cost to build the modest home will be about $2,000 (which will include paying a local village mason worker to build it – an added plus since he will be able to use his skill to earn money for his family.)

A third family they met is comprised of four young children and their older sister. Their story is particularly upsetting, but the work being done for them is hopeful. Over a year ago, Sister Hedwig was visiting the family on a regular basis. The mother was dying of AIDS and the older sister had dropped out of school to work in the forest to earn money for the family. The nuns were providing food and support to the family each week. One Wednesday, the sisters visited the home and brought food as well as emotional support to the mother. That Friday, the mother passed away in her home. Because the home was situated far out on the other side of the forest, the sisters only visited once a week. When the mother died, the younger children did not know what to do and as a result, they lived with their mother’s body in the house for four days. At one point, the two older children walked (a very long way) to Nkandla to find the sisters who visited them each week. When they arrived at the hospital, they were taken to Sister Hedwig who was able to assist. The mother was properly buried and the children were placed at Sizanani Centre, the orphanage run by the convent. They stayed there for several months and received counseling and enrolled in school. Sister Hedwig later found a suitable home for the girls who now live with their older sister. They all currently attend school, relying on the support of the nuns.

Towards the end of their trip the group visited Velangaye High School, which is one of several schools in Nkandla in desperate need of help. The school serves 505 students each day in grades 8 to 12. The principal, Mr. N.E. Mahaye is an impressive leader and is committed to guarantee that each of his students has an opportunity to reach their highest potential. He and his staff are doing amazing things with very few resources. As a group, we have determined that assisting the high school should be one of our top priorities.

The group learned that when going to school most of the students arrive on an empty stomach with little hope of food even when they return home. In addition to the obvious suffering that these children face everyday is the negative effect poor nutrition has on these children’s ability to process and store information. Providing at least one meal per day at the school would improve their quality of life and help them succeed in school. Renovation of structural facilities of the schools including the buildings and classrooms, electricity, toilets, and water supply are also matters essential to the success of the community.

When talking to the students, the group also learned that more often than not,
the students who are qualified to go on to the University or to a trade school
are often too poor to do so. So setting up a fund for higher/continued education
would be very worthwhile.

Together there are so many lives we can change. With one trip we have already changed the lives of dozens of these children – to think that this is only the beginning is incredible. With your help we can continue to change the lives of the hundreds of AIDS orphans in Nkandla. Please continue to help and support our project. Your involvement and generosity is greatly appreciated and has already made a difference in these children’s lives.

Again, if you haven’t already, please don’t hesitate to get involved. Contact us at
www.theafricaproject.com. There are many different ways to get involved. Even by yourself you can develop and host a fundraiser to support The Africa Project. Host a dinner for friends and have everyone donate a set amount. Host a car wash and accept donations. Even bake sales and lemonade stands are activities that even the youngest of supporters can host.

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