My paintings narrate the contemporary situation of the systematically persecuted Iranian Baha’i community, Iran’s largest religious minority, after the 1979 Iranian revolution. I take inspiration from hearing, feeling, reading and researching the stories of the Bahai’s of Iran. Many of my paintings depict the stories of the persecution of my immediate and extended family. I primarily work with oil on canvas and when necessary I use mixed media to maintain historical accuracy. I work on small canvases and the details are often miniature in scale. Each of my paintings are thoroughly researched, are inspired by actual events and show the beautiful aspects of those who have been persecuted by highlighting their steadfastness, powerful spirit, and love for humanity.
My paintings tell the stories of this systematic persecution— including long-term imprisonment, hateful graffiti on the walls of their property, execution by hanging, firing squad, being fired from work, unauthorized looting of property inside their houses, not allowing them to bury their bodies, destruction of their cemeteries through arson, students and professors kicked out of university and not allowing them to reach higher education, etc. Throughout my work, I am constantly reflecting on the concept of a humanity free from religious prejudice including how we can eliminate all prejudice such as racism, sexism, nationalism, and how our prejudices can make complicated or difficult the development of our community and allow each other to grow. I often use my own body and those of my friends and family in my paintings.
Maryam Safajoo is a painter born and raised in Iran but currently is living and working in Illinois, USA where she has her citizenship. Her narrative paintings describe the contemporary situation of the systematically persecuted Iranian Bahai community, Iran’s largest religious minority, after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Maryam studied her MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts university in Boston, MA. She takes inspiration from hearing, feeling, reading and researching the stories of the Bahai’s of Iran.
Maryam has exhibited her work at venues including Harvard University, the Massachusetts State House and presented at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her work has recently been featured by IranWire, PersianBMS, Radio Farda and Voice of America.
Her paintings are unique as they are based on qualitative research with those who are familiar with the situation she depicts; they are a combination of research and art. She was not able to do her BFA in Iran because of the danger of being kicked out of the public university she was surprisingly allowed to enter into. She chose business administration, a program that also existed at the BIHE (the University that the Bahá’í Professors who were kicked out of the University made) so if she was kicked out, she could continue her studies at the BIHE. When she moved to the United States, she applied for an MFA program and was accepted by Tuft’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts. From there she continued her profession of researching, interviewing, and painting through the present day. She works on heavy subjects in each painting. Her work is very sensitive and has an important message that needs to be shared with the world.