Remaking An Iranian Epic

Iranian graphic artist Hamid Rahmanian collaborated with Professor Ahmad Sadri on Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings, a revamping of a 1000-year-old national legend by Abolqasem Ferdowsi. In an interview, Rahmanian explains why he took on the project:

[W]e wanted to take it out of the hands of the scholars and introduce it to a larger, broader audience. There is an interest in mythology here in the West, particularly, in American. If you go to a bookstore, you can find books on every mythology on earth, but for some reason, Persian mythology seems inaccessible and not represented in the pantheon of world mythologies. Also, many younger Iranian Americans know about Shahnameh but few have read it. We thought this would be a great introduction the text for second generation Iranians who have grown up here in the US, a way to connect to their roots.

Rahmanian also discusses the artwork in the book:

In terms of the illustrations, I’ve taken from over 500 hundred years of the visual culture from Iran and its neighbors, The Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, and Mughal India who were influenced by Iranian painting from the late fourteenth to mid nineteenth centuries. I deconstructed hundreds of miniature paintings and lithographs then wove together thousands of these elements into new illustrations, much like a DJ samples different sounds to create new music. For those who are not familiar with Persian miniatures, it’s a great introduction to the art of that region. For those who know the­ work, it’s a totally new take on something familiar.

Sourena Parham emphasizes the cinematic qualities of the work: “The unique result is a fresh visual narration that makes the ancient text feel as if it is flows seamlessly, like a finely edited film.”