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EVENT : December 5, 2013 — March 1, 2013.

Alinah Azadeh – Artist Blog

The Gifts of The Departed

By: Alinah Azadeh

Reflections on grief and the creative process, prompted by my current solo show of sculptures ‘The Gifts of The Departed’ at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, until March 2014 and the showing of The Gifts (2010) at Zhejiang Museum in China this year. Looking back at formative personal /creative experiences and practice and forward to how these feed into what I am working towards.

Alinah Azadeh is an interdisciplinary artist using processes of public ritual, dialogue, gift and narrative exchange.


Blog. No1

[19 November 2013]


It is almost 9 years since my mother, Parvin Azadeh Rieu, was swept away in the Asian Tsunami of 2004, an event which not only totally transformed my personal life, but my arts practice too.

Why? perhaps because I felt so connected to thousands of others who had experienced a loss of loved ones in the single same catastrophic event, or maybe partly because my experience of working digitally – focused on the other, the  ‘user’ , which was taking me towards another way of working. Also, my MA in 2001 resulted in the creation of public installation works, a new departure. (More on all this later). For whatever combination of reasons, I began to work relationally, that is, I finally broke through the skin of the old paradigm I had so been attached, of solitary artist in studio, to feeling compelled to relate, connect, ask and answer some of the fundamental questions in life, in the public arena. Like, why am I here? What is this creative gift for? How do I relate to society and how it is evolving? How do I process grief, especially given the sudden and very public context in which I have lost my mother? How do I relate to others who have a comparable experience, and communicate this to those who don’t, through my work? Why does it feel important to do this?

This weekend, on Saturday, 1-5pm, I have a small solo show of some of my  on-going collection of  sculptures, The Gifts of the Departed, opening at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. These began as a creative making ritual of grief, using some of the key elements of my mother’s kitchen, wrapping them in cloth and kilim wool and then binding them with texts taken from my blog at the time, which documented some of the almost unbelievable signs, dreams and events around her death. The collection then expanded into using found object and Sufi texts to create what feel like three dimensional poems. Her death happened 24 days after the birth of my first child (and her first grandchild) Delia – at which she was present. On some level – in my emotional archeology –  these two events felt and still feel closely related. Recently I went looking for this blog, which contains diary extracts from the days and weeks following the 2004 Tsunami, and realized it was no longer online. I felt a little shocked.

As part of this show, and also prompted by the devastating and resonant events which have unfolded in the Philippines, I will be re-publishing extracts from this 2005/6 personal blog.

The showing of some of these works is an opportunity for me to reflect both on how these experiences shaped my practice and to consider the wider questions around grief and the creative process, i.e what loss can give birth to if we allow and have the courage to let it. I apologise in advance for anything that comes across as distressing/sentimental/inappropriate , but since the experiences I speak of are so closely woven into the fabric of my creative being, AN seems as good a place as any to be their permanent home.

I will be giving an Artist Talk on grief and the creative process at 3pm this Saturday 23rd November as part of the launch of the show at MCDC. It is free and all are welcome. It will also be filmed and I will link to it here once it is up.

Blog. No2

[25 November 2013]

Saturday was the launch of the show. I loved the details around it, the specially designed bookmarks for the poetry in the resource area (which are Rumi: Selected Poems and The Gift-Poems by Hafez ), the Persian –influenced menu at the café (would have been VERY approved of by my mother…) and some of the song choices played by the wonderful Manchester String Quartet – ( I felt confusingly uplifted by their rendering of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart.. and more appropriately by the Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out).

I realize I was too distracted to take any photos myself so once they are up I will add linked to those taken by MCDC, and they also made a film of the day, including of my artist talk so I will post that here eventually. I do feel all talked out, but I think it’s appropriate to post up some of the relevant diary entries I mentioned last time from 2005.I looked at them again and some of them feel just too achingly personal to put in the public realm, so I am posting up those which relate most directly to some of the works on show. The first being Mother Tongue (2010).

They were written to my daughter Delia, who had just been born, on December 2nd2004.

‘Your grandmother (4.1.2005)

            Delia, your beloved grandmother, who wanted you to call her ‘Papar Jaan’, was swept away by a great tsunami in South East Asia, Phuket Island on 26th December 2004 (last week.)

             I am numb. What a huge loss. She adored you so much and had waited for your arrival for many years. She will always be with you my love.  
Rumi says: 
Are you jealous of the oceans generosity? 
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone? 
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups! 
They swim in the huge fluid freedom.

            Reg, her partner who survived and was with her just before the wave hit, told me of her last moments; when the wave came, it took the sea out first and left the fish on the sand. Your Papar Jan, not realising what was going to happen, rushed to pick up the fish and put them back in the sea. Rescuing to the last. Rest in peace.

 My Mother’s death: dreams and signs (10.1.2005).

Have been finding it hard to find space to write about what has been happening. But I must record this – last night Mum was in my dream. A younger version of her with jet-black hair, less aged – she was simply being with us – her beautiful, comforting self. I knew she was dead but she was visible as a living presence. 
This weekend we all went to visit Reg (her boyfriend of 5 years who was with her in Phuket and survived-  they adored each other). Leo, Delia, Farid, Fariba, Massoud, Simon and I. It was actually lovely to see him but so, so sad that she was not there…We agreed to wait to celebrate her life, not mourn her death.She still has to be found. 
The more we talk about it, the clearer it is there were ‘signs’ – the dream she told us about 3 months ago that of  a tidal wave coming to take her away on a beautiful beach…with the comment ‘What an amazing way to die!’ and Simon (your uncles) dream soon after of he and I on a beach waving her goodbye as she got taken by the sea. Her phone calls to all of us on Christmas day, the day before she died. Simon missed her first call and he prayed (he doesnt believe in God) desperately for her to call back in case he never saw her again, which she did. 
I wish I had told her in that phone call how much I loved her – but I know she knew it, we had just spent so much beautiful close time together before she died, preparing for your arrival, during and just after your birth. Deepening our relationship. The relief around that is huge for me’.

Blog. No3

[5 December 2013]

Artist, mother, human being: a dance. 

‘Love of the dead does not last,

Because the dead will not return

But love of the living

Is in every moment fresher than a bud..’


December 2nd was my daughter’s 9th birthday, falling 24 days before my mother was taken by the sea (her name, Delia, comes from Cordelia, meaning ‘daughter of the sea’).  In my personal archeology, she and my mother are inextricably linked, as if my mother were able to leave, knowing that another, fresher source of love would be taking her place and my attention.

Over the last nine years I have shed many skins – as if I have had to re-draw the lines between myself and her nn terms of values, hopes, dreams and really step into myself as a lone being, shaking off a strong and powerful influence, both loving and sometimes overbearing. In that process it is as if she has become much more a part of me, as if – returning to the language of food! – I have been digesting her and now have a clearer sense of who I am in relation to her.

Last week at my artist talk at the opening of the MCDC show, (to be posted online soon) I reflected on the idea that as humans, conditioned into a linear narrative of emotional reactions to a series of life-changing events, we trained more and more into the holding of an emotional duality –in my case, the grief of the loss of the mother, combined with the joy of the new relationship of a child. At night, in the first weeks of her death, waking up howling from dreams of her and the realization that she may no longer be physical and ever touched or heard again. In the day, taking in the waves of love and the softness of a new born baby and the shifting of my attention away from me to another.

On reflection, this has been a kind of invaluable training in dealing with life in a more general sense – the duality of working as an artist – in need of a certain degree of freedom and creative space to develop ideas, work, relationships  – coupled with the role of mother, which operates as a channel for fulfilling the needs of others on a 24 hours basis, whether this is characterized by the physical dependence at the baby stage, then the more complex emotional rollercoaster of intense negotiations and working through (or sometimes just reacting to or wanting to run away from) conflicting needs between siblings and between children and parents.

Parenting is perhaps the perfect antidote to being an artist on the level of ego – it is ego-destroying by its very nature, it has brought me right back down to (challengingly domesticated) earth when I was a few times in danger of flying off the edge of an almost narcissistic cliff, having forgotten at times I am simply a channel for the work I make and not its originator. And yet I know I am valued in both realms, but in very different ways. Often I have found one to be a refuge and relief from the other (mainly my work to be a refuge from the intense demands of family life, if I am honest). My partner and both children came to the opening (a rare occurrence) and all of them sat through the entire talk.

This was a first – and especially since (or maybe because) it is a show that originates from such major events which have shaped all our lives – it was like the two major and interdependent sections of my life eclipsed each other for a day and for once I was at ease with it. This feels like another small step in integrating what can often be conflicting spaces within myself – the artist, mother, and human being. I think this is a life – long process, a kind of dance, sometimes awkward and slow and sometimes the only way to burn away any sense of being torn in two, or caught within a role and space of one’s own making.

Blog No.4

[12 December 2013]

 The Absent Other.

‘Objects, particularly those that are part of everyday, material culture, are things we carry with us, and it is in this sense that they take on the cultural markers of memory and of time as well as performing the rituals of our everyday.  Remember the first security blanket of childhood and the swaddling cloth of birth. Objects can be ‘possessed’ by the self in many surprising ways. This ‘possession’ is, according to Susan Stewart, a guarantee of the presence of the absent other.  The power bestowed on such objects, implies Stewart, is precisely dependent on the fact that they are a possession, an extension of the self but which also reminds us of the threat of loss. This leads me to propose that objects regarded as personal memorabilia can be addressed in relation to memory, absence grief, anger and remembrance and are ‘supplemented by a narrative discourse’ through the language of longing. This supplement further contributes to a surplus of significance with its reference to the past, rites of passage and ceremony in so far as it permits objects to conjure a kind of magic aura and phantasms of fictional histories beyond any objective reality’.

From  ‘One and another: a Handshake with the Ancestors’, Janis Jefferies – The Gifts,(Azadeh, 2010) Exhibition catalogue.

Missing / Present

 (from my diary entries Jan 21st/30th 2004)

‘Delia, your Papar Jaan, whose wish in her Will was to be cremated and have her ashes thrown into the sea at Birling Gap near Eastbourne, is still missing, at sea, presumed dead.

She came to your uncle Simon, in a dream this week to ask him what happened, what the story of her death was? So he told her. She was taken aback a little, but also somewhat amused, and in good humour… She was all in deep pink. Funny because I bought loads of pink clothing last weekend (and I never normally wear pink) and have been wearing it everyday. Someone told me it is the colour of protection.

Also, I dreamt that I was searching for her in the ‘Valley of Death’ (how much more biblical can you get…). A valley through which were passing all the souls of the people who died in the Tsunami. I went towards one who I thought was mum, sensing her. As I did, the shadows of the souls, including hers, passed through my body – warm and moist. I was totally unafraid.

Delia, you are a 7-week-old golden angel, becoming more and more alert every day….
The most beautiful, delicate features, a pixie nose, dark blue eyes and cupid lips. A long body and the most elegant, long fingers. Will you be an artist? You have such a calm, mellow nature, you are all potential. 
Such a gift at such an intense and sad time. Grief balanced by joy, balanced by grief again.

Stuart said that Mums energy is transformed through death like rain into a cloud. I saw this very image the next day as Maria, you and I climbed over the hill in Brighton towards the sea. He says he saw her ‘in me’ and it’s true I have felt her energy very close to me. 
If only she were here, cooking…I only have the empty rice cooker she left with me till her next visit. I will honor her by perfecting the favorite dishes she used to make (she made them all in the week before you arrived, some are still in the freezer, ready for this time). Fesinjan, gormeh sabsi, galieh mahi, kookoo sabsi. She was the greatest cook.’


When you are with everyone but me

You are with no-one

When you are with no-one but me

You are with everyone

Instead of being so bound up with everyone

Be everyone

When you become that many, you’re nothing.


Rumi  (from ‘The Essential Rumi ‘ trans. Coleman Barks)

Blog No.5

[21 December 2013]

The Longest Night: Be refreshed in the darkness

Night cancels out the business of day

Inertia recharges the mind

Then the day cancels the night

And inertia disappears in the light.

Though we sleep and rest in the dark,

Doesn’t the dark contain the water of life?

Be refreshed in the darkness.

Doesn’t a moment of silence

Restore beauty to the voice?

Opposites manifest through opposites:

In the black core of the heart

God created the eternal light of love

Rumi  – Masnavi (1, 3861-65)

I have been struggling with dualities, everywhere. Appropriate as I am writing this in the early hours of Shabi Yalda – ‘The Longest Night’ in Iran, or the Winter Solstice round here (Lewes is full of rituals, druids etc). Yalda means ‘rebirth of the sun’ and what I remember most growing up was the image of having to jump over a fire to ensure I got a decent husband later in life, must have been somewhat off the mark from the original spirit of using fire to encourage the sun to rise and overcome the darkness of winter…

Yalda was a favourite tradition of my mums (after Nowruz, the Persian New Year). She made  ‘ashe reshte’, a soup of noodles, beans, greens and soured dry yoghurt and when I went to Tehran in 1998 I recall sitting around with my cousin and his friends trying to make sense of their bemused translations of Hafiz (‘The Invisible Tongue’) one of my favourite Sufi poets whose work it is a tradition to use for bibliomancy (divining the future with books). Since I am not bi-lingual my main access to Hafiz, is through the renderings of his work by Daniel Ladinsky – in particular the collection The Gift, which contains poems I pulled out at random and conceived whole new projects from as a result –Including The Bibliomancer’s Dream (2009). So I owe him much, yet I know I only glimpse the shadow and not the object in not having Farsi as my mother tongue. (which incidentally is the title of one of my first and favourite sculptures in the show, and speaks of lost language itself).

I was wondering which diary entry would be relevant to today  and found one which communicates the duality present in the Rumi poem at the top: it is both devastating and hopeful, as  –  6 weeks after my mum went missing – I started to read my dreams in an almost sobering way, as if to talk myself into stepping into a new space. So here it goes:

Dreams all around us (II) (Diary entry 8.2.2005)

I dreamt of my mum again. She was cooking in the next room in a house I wasn’t familiar with and I went in quickly, in case she disappeared. She was in pink. I told her ‘I love you. Do you love me?’ and hugged her. She was detached but said yes – I think. I said ‘I miss you’. At that point she was in blue and just glided by, untouchable. 
Then she was at the stove again and turned on the gas flame, a high flame. I asked if she wanted us to set up a memorial fund in her name, and she just disappeared. 

What was that saying (Buddhist?): ‘In the face of death, have no attachment or aversion’? – I guess it’s the only way to be free of this world, in the next world, whatever that really means. 
Also, she can’t answer my questions anymore – I have to find my own answers. This feels so sad, and I miss her so much. 
The second part of the dream I remember was in a house with a lot of people – the same people? Lots of them got gassed and died – by accident I think – but I survived along with a few others. I looked into the mirror to check I was alive; I wanted to live, to wake up and live. 
Today is a beautiful sunny day and its Leo’s birthday, my love. And Delia’s head has grown a bit overnight! 

Blog No.6

[28 December 2013]

Boxing Day, 9th Anniversary: Ashes, Lifeboats, Rice Cookers, Calm Seas.

Nine years. a cycle, the number of return, of completion. Am mindful of this number and its importance in The Gifts (2010) which was the first project I blogged about on this site and contained 999 objects the first 99 of which were my mothers effects merged with my own… the lowest object being the plastic birth clip from the Royal Free where Delia arrived into the world, bound with pink sari material from Sri-lanka I had been gifted by someone who also survived the Tsunami…

Nine years, it has been calm seas inside today. A contrast to past years. I have not felt very much at all beyond a certain peace and distance. The early anniversary days were spent in mixed states of intense emotion – the first year with many family members and friends eating Iranian food and toasting mum. The following alone in bed weeping and unable to rise, others on a rollercoaster of grief and relief. Always a pull to be by the water though, initially for the first few years a feeling of quiet panic as the Christmas period approached – the expectation of celebration –especially as a new young family – mixed with the dread of the hangover of boxing day and all it now meant. Avoiding watching TV, to keep free of the images that had haunted me in my dreams. An awareness that my mother was only one of 230,000 souls lost in the sea and many others displaced or disinherited of their land as developers moved in and re-appropriated their homes.

So, this Boxing Day – a sunny, calm day in contrast to the storms this week. My friend Lili (one of Delia’s godmothers) drove us through country roads immersed in water, whole fields turned to lakes from the recent storm. Arriving at Birling Gap, a deeply beautiful cove near Eastbourne, Seven Sisters, where my mother first landed in the UK in 1965 to study as a nurse and where she had specified in her will that she wishes her ashes to be scattered into the sea. And where we tipped her ashes, flown back from Phuket, into the water before turning the Hafez to give us a line.

The main exceptions to my calm state were:

1. On Christmas Day, opening a gift from one of my mothers oldest friends, Jila, who has kept in loving touch with us and relates to my children almost as grandchildren, in a way similar to I think my mum might have. I opened the gift, which was a Persian Rice Cooker – and immediately burst into tears.  Like my mother would have, she had noticed I no longer possessed a fully working rice cooker, having turned 3 of my mothers the sculpture Mother Tongue, (in the current show) and given the other one away, leaving me one. This object still has such resonance for me. It IS she.  It is a symbol of food as love, as social connection, nourishment and nostalgia, tadik – the crispy crust that all visitors to Iranian homes wait to pounce on when the lid if lifted…

2. On the beach today, in the fresh breeze and sunshine, watching the children jumping in and out of the edge of the waves, the crumbling white rock and us picking out a poem from Hafiz which both took my breath away, both left a tear and made us all laugh, it was so in tune with my mothers sense of humour:

The Great Religions

The Great Religions are the ships

Poets the life boats

Every sane person I know

Has jumped overboard

That is good for business

Isn’t it Hafiz?

Hafiz (trans. Daniel Ladinsky)


# 10 [30 January 2014]

 Blog No#7 

The Sound of a Wave

(From Diary entry 30.4.2007)

We spent Saturday on Camber Sands beach. It’s a childhood summer haunt of mine, but Leo and Delia’s first visit. It was sunny and blissful, being on a vast expanse of sand – in England!. Dunes behind us, sea far ahead in front. We had a windbreak and a picnic and felt like a real little family growing, my belly ripening under the sun.
The sea was miles out so we took a long walk to meet it and splashed around in the cool shallow water, squinting our eyes and mashing the sand between our toes.

I got hit by pregnancy fatigue and decided to walk back, leaving Leo and Delia to paddle and run through the waves. A few minutes later, with my back turned to them, and the thunderous sound of the wind in my ears, I had a deja vue and felt panic. The sound of the wind could have been the sound of a wave and I turned to check they were still there. I think the fact that there had been an earthquake just along this coast in Folkestone the day before had some influence!  I suddenly got – to a small degree – what it must have been like for Reg to have seen Mum for the last time on that beach in Phuket and then turn and never see her again. I started to shake, then reminded myself it wasn’t real, and walked away from the past back to the shore.

# 13 [20 February 2014]

Two years on today..Letter to my Mother

(Diary extract Boxing Day, 2006)

Boxing Day –  the second anniversary of your death. We all met (the Iranian side of the family and Sue, one of your favourite friends of mine) at Birling Gap, where we scattered your ashes in the sea, as you requested, flown over from Thailand. It’s a gorgeous place, you chose well. Even the cafe where we sat and had tea and crisps, so completely 1960’s England, like it must have been when you lived in that area. Delia tried to make sandcastles in the freezing wind, and we cast a flower Sue gave me for you and a crown of ivy from Raphaella, into the waves.

I didn’t sense you there, it’s like you are very faraway now, you’re spread far and wide or something, not so connected to one place but everywhere and in everything, I felt your embrace in my imagination and heard your voice, and cheeky laugh of reassurance that everything will be ok.
 I cooked Fesinjan (chicken in walnut and pomegranate sauce) for Khaleh Goli, Koosha, Sanaz, Fariba Leo and Delia. Never as delicious as yours, but you did have 30 years more practice. We ate and joked in our cosy kitchen and drank champagne in your honour. We didn’t talk about you much directly, but you were present. Khaleh Goli’s hair is an amazing white gold colour now, you would like it. Strange I will never get to see what you look like as an old woman, say 80 or something. Just as you wanted.

I got so many texts and messages today, felt a lot of love coming to me and us from all over the world.
I was helped to see today that I don’t need to fill a space left by you, because the whole landscape has changed and there is nothing to be done about that, except be fully myself within it and embrace what comes.
More and more I sense myself growing up with this. I will always be your child. I will always feel waves of sadness come and go, but I know what works is to live a life full of the qualities I most loved in you: generosity, freedom of spirit, love, creativity, passion. Sometimes it will be like that and sometimes it won’t. And thats ok.

Alinah Azadeh/ASF Weave/Jon Bird, ‘The Loom: from Text to Textile(installation)’, 2005. Photo: Lilian Simonsson

Alinah Azadeh, ‘The Gifts (1-99) – detail’, 2010. Photo: Xavier Young.

# 12 [12 February 2014]

From Mother to Child … and back again.

I found this following diary entry hard to put out there (but I finally decided to do so) as I remember so acutely how it was to be sitting with  my 2 year old, and feel so much more of a child than her. Very vulnerable, but somehow grasping how connected we were – are – through my mother and her absence.

Nowruz mobarak! Diary Entry 20.3.2007

Dear Mama,

 It was your birthday yesterday and today is the eve of Nowruz (Persian New Year), your absolute favourite time of year. I have made a Haft Seen  in the corner of the front room, using your red and gold cloth and the silver dishes with the seven ‘seen’ things – except I cheated a bit, it’s got an English bent to it which you would probably smile at. My Nanny and Aunt spent the day here, I needed that female family connection to get me through – four generations in the front room, and it felt good and safe somehow. 

It’s been a triple one because Sunday, the day before your birthday, was also Mothers Day. I sat having breakfast with Delia and found myself weeping. She looked at me, your two year old grand-daughter, and asked for a hug. Then she sat stroking my face and kissing me as I explained why I was so sad and how you were in the sea now. ‘It’s ok mummy, it’s alright’ were the healing words she spoke, amazing how it lightened things up. Feels right to be honest with her, and authentic about my grief when it arises. Later on she looked at me and asked ‘Your mummy?’ as if to say, are you ok about your mummy now? Children know everything. Happy New Year Mama. 

Alinah Azadeh, ‘Forgotten Tree’, Pastel, charcoal on paper, 2010.

# 11 [2 February 2014]

A Whole World : Diary extract 30.4.2007

When mum died, a whole world died with her. 
Last week, I visited what remains of part of her world – her friends – and I took Delia to meet some of her dearest Iranian friends at Jila’s house. Jila knew Mum since before I was born and I always liked her. I think she was one of the few who didn’t squeeze our cheeks till they were red…
We sat and had gorgeous Iranian food, while Delia ran around on the grass with bluebells as her backdrop.

I let the music of a language that I only half know soothe me…and Delia to get that passionate kind of loving attention only Iranian women know how to give in that totally expressive way. I had some moments of overwhelming pain come in through the soothing feeling of being there, and could almost hear her voice among the melee of voices telling jokes, stories, gossip – all the juicy stuff Mum liked, which would have been spiced up with a good dose of political argument if she had been there.
 Sometimes it’s so easy to feel her around us, and at others she feels so far gone on her journey it’s hard not to feel totally alone, like a child waiting for the sound of her mothers voice to make its way round the corner, accompanied by the smell of saffron and lilies.

# 10 [30 January 2014]

The Sound of a Wave

(From Diary entry 30.4.2007)

We spent Saturday on Camber Sands beach. It’s a childhood summer haunt of mine, but Leo and Delia’s first visit. It was sunny and blissful, being on a vast expanse of sand – in England!. Dunes behind us, sea far ahead in front. We had a windbreak and a picnic and felt like a real little family growing, my belly ripening under the sun.
The sea was miles out so we took a long walk to meet it and splashed around in the cool shallow water, squinting our eyes and mashing the sand between our toes.

I got hit by pregnancy fatigue and decided to walk back, leaving Leo and Delia to paddle and run through the waves. A few minutes later, with my back turned to them, and the thunderous sound of the wind in my ears, I had a deja vue and felt panic. The sound of the wind could have been the sound of a wave and I turned to check they were still there. I think the fact that there had been an earthquake just along this coast in Folkestone the day before had some influence!  I suddenly got – to a small degree – what it must have been like for Reg to have seen Mum for the last time on that beach in Phuket and then turn and never see her again. I started to shake, then reminded myself it wasn’t real, and walked away from the past back to the shore.

Alinah Azadeh. Courtesy: Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Gifts of The Departed Opening /Artist talk

# 9 [22 January 2014]

Grief, Textile and The Creative Process

I was up in Manchester for meetings about work current and future the last few days. I went to the Craft Design Centre, looked in on my work and had lunch with Kate (Direcrot) /Kaylee (Exhibitions) and heard that, shock horror, the comments book got stolen last week!. Strange thing to lift, I hope whoever has it will read and enjoy, luckily Kaylee had transcribed a lot of it, but some responses will be lost. And of course there will be many responses I will never know anything about, which is both a comforting and disconcerting aspect of having your work in public. Sometimes they come back years later, from random meetings with people who have contributed to or seen the work – this happened quite a few times with The Gifts at unexpected moments.

They had also just finished editing the Artist Talk: Grief, Textile and the Creative process  that I gave on the opening day, now up on vimeo. The edited version is 18 minutes long. It was probably the most personal talk I have ever given or will ever on my work, and  I realise that the whole process of this show and blog is another form of staged ‘closure’, another level of trying to complete the incompletable… This was underlined by the presence of my family in the room, my mirrors and also my rock.

Alinah Azadeh, ‘I want’, 2012.

# 8 [16 January 2014]

I want…pomegranates and rosewater

Journal extract from 4.10.2007


It’s autumn now…and I am almost fully pregnant with my second child…we planted a pomegranate tree in the front garden, it was like planting my mother as i have such strong associations with her and that fruit. Her story of picking them from their orchard in Namin, (their village near Ardabil, North West Iran),  throwing one against the wall to soften it and then piercing it to suck out the juice, feeling it hit the back of the neck..delicious…

A ritual i try to pass on whenever i can..(the method of eating, rather than the picking of course..we don’t expect actual fruit from ours..)

On Saturday there was a Birth Blessing Circle for me here with about 20 of my female friends,(mainly local) facilitated by my closest friend Maria. We began by drinking pomegranate and rosewater.

I had never heard of Birth blessings (or Blessingways as they are called in the US) but I knew I needed to be encircled by a loving community of women, as mum is not here this time around to encircle me like she did in 2004.

It was an extraordinary experience and enabled me to let go of my last birth experience, acknowledge my mother and my ancestors as present in the process, create a way of being for this birth – abandon and acceptance!

And, while being pampered and sung to by everyone, open up to the support and love of a warm gathering of great women from all eras of my life. It took place in the front room, where i will be labouring, which now feels like a very powerful and ready space. We feasted afterwards together with the men and children who joined us and I had made salmon with dill and rice, the dish mum used to make at large gatherings. It will soon be three years since she left this world and Delia arrived. 

Notes, looking back: I managed to birth Moses in that very room and we    buried the placenta underneath the pomegranate tree – much to the alarm of some of my family…

More on: ‘I want’ (2012), which I posted up last time and which is on show in Manchester at the moment, is a small piece consisting of a wrapped pair of childs shoes.  This edition is a personal one – they are Moses’ – first shoes and they are bound with an extract from a poem that I pulled out at random after wrapping, from Sufi poet Rumi (good old bibliomancy), entitled ‘Moses and The Shepherd’ (!), challenging notions that there is a ‘right’ way to address or worship the ‘divine’. A poem about service to a beloved other, from which I took:

(Moses heard a shepherd on the road praying, “God,
where are you?) I want to help You, to fix Your shoes and comb your hair. I want to wash Your clothes, and pick the lice off. I want to bring You milk, to kiss Your little hands and feet when it’s time, for You to go to bed. I want to sweep Your room and keep it neat. God, my sheep and my goats are Yours. All I can say, remembering You, is ayyyyyyy and ahhhhhhhh.”

Looking up this text online I found Coleman Barks (my favourite translator of Rumi) doing an accompanied reading of the whole poem, here.    I love: ‘Burn up your thinking, Moses!’

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