Atena Farghadani, the 29-year-old Iranian artist who was imprisoned in January 2015 for a political cartoon satirising members of the Iranian parliament, is the subject of a major new London mural by the acclaimed Polish street artist Zbiok.
The artwork joins the #Draw4Atena social media initiative and was commissioned by the Journalism Is Not A Crime campaign for persecuted journalists in Iran. The Village Underground nightclub gave permission for the mural to be displayed on its prominent Holywell Lane wall – a major space for London street art. Cedar Lewisohn, the international street art curator, directed the conceptualisation and execution of the work.
Journalism Is Not A Crime was established by the Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Maziar Bahari, whose own 2009 jailing in Evin Prison was the subject of Jon Stewart’s film Rosewater. “Atena’s story shows how afraid the Islamic Republic of Iran is of even the mildest criticism,” Bahari said. “We’re recognising her in London – in a city with a centuries-old tradition of political cartooning – to say that journalism can never be a crime.”
"I really relate to Atena, and I decided to join the campaign because it’s hard to imagine that, for things we take for granted, she is in jail. And I hope that my piece will help us empathise with Atena and support her cause."
Lewisohn, the project curator, added that “Zbiok’s piece – unique and distinct from mainstream street art – is influenced equally by references to socialist realism and a Modernist form of abstract representation. He shows that a work of art can be authentic while advocating a human rights message.”
Artwork by Zbiok