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Maryam Safajoo
Maryam Safajoo

Maryam Safajoo is a Tufts University alumni, a Persian American painter based in the United States and graduated with an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston. Her paintings narrate the stories of the contemporary situation of the systematically persecuted Iranian Baha’i community – Iran’s largest religious minority – after the 1979 Iranian revolution. She explores cultural behavior and responses toward violence and human rights violations to encourage conversations that challenge the lack of representation of ethical behavior, people and voices in our global consciousness while highlighting the truth and necessity of freedom.

“I experienced this oppression myself in Iran. I remember the day in the early morning when government security forces burst into my home, ransacked it and took my father to prison; my younger sister was crying on her way to school. Later my sister was denied access to university and because of her quest to understand why, was placed in solitary confinement.” These are only a few examples of what Baha’is around Iran have and are currently experiencing.

Her paintings narrate these stories which are a result of her conversations and interviews with the people who were near or in these actual events. Many of the incidents she depicts only exist in the memory of those who experienced them and have no pictorial existence. In many cases if visual records did exist, they have been confiscated by the Iranian authorities in raids of homes. Her depictions are often the first time these events have taken visual form. She records the details of this history. For example, the shoes, clothes, artifacts, and environments seen in her paintings are very close to those that were there in the event.
Her works are academic in nature and all these paintings are based on qualitative interviews or archival research. It could even be looked at as a form of visual ethnography which captures experiences of an entire community which have had no prior visual existence.

Some of her paintings depict the stories of the persecution of her immediate and extended family, the stories that she grew up with in her childhood. As a child she often accompanied her family to visit the homes of the Baha’is in Iran who had lost members of their family due to this persecution. Her mother herself was in prison when she was 19 for about 2 years and nearly all her friends she was imprisoned with were executed for being Baha’i (Mona Mahmoudnejad, Zarin Moghimi, etc…). They would often visit the families of her cellmates and she would hear first-hand the stories of these brave individuals from their closest relatives. While growing up her home was filled with the various stories of the persecution of the Baha’is around Iran and were woven into the fabric of her everyday life. These experiences in her formative years had a very influential effect on her and lay at the heart of her current artistic practice.

She takes inspiration from interviewing, hearing, feeling, reading, and researching the stories of the Bahai’s of Iran.

Her paintings tell the stories of this systematic persecution— including execution or murder, arrest, detainment, and interrogation. Tens of thousands more have been deprived of jobs, pensions, and educational opportunities – including a systematic denial of access to higher education. Bahá’í cemeteries, and properties have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed, and many Bahá’ís have had their homes and other property seized or damaged etc. Throughout her work, she is constantly reflecting on the concept of a humanity free from prejudice; that is how we can eliminate our prejudices against any people on the basis of color, nationality, gender or identity, economic or educational status etc. As we know, these prejudices can complicate the development of our community and prevent us from growing together, from building a better world. She poses and also asks individuals familiar with the events to pose and dress as the figures in her paintings.
She primarily works with oil on Linen on small canvases and the details are often miniature in scale. Each of her 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.

Maryam's works are part of the permanent collections of
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
Dayton International Peace Museum, Dayton, OH
Albany Museum of Art, Albany, GA
NIU Art Museum, IL
Crary Art Gallery, a Nonprofit Art Museum, PA
And many other private collections.

Maryam has exhibited her work at venues including The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Massachusetts State House, International Peace Museum in Dayton, OH, Albany Museum of Art in Georgia, NIU Art Museum in Illinois, Crary Art Gallery, a Nonprofit Art Museum, and will be exhibiting at Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, Evanston Art Center in Illinois as well as Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown, West Virginia. She is a two-time recipient of the Merit award from the Pinacothèque Art Museum in Luxembourg, The Romero Award, “Stories From My Childhood” best in show award from Northern Illinois University Art Museum; She presented at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and her remarks at the AJC Boston Diplomats Seder was adapted by Boston Herald into an article. Her work has recently been featured by IranWire, Tavaana, PersianBMS, Radio Farda, Nashraasoo, VOA, Mass General Hospital Global OB-GYN Newsletter and multiple times by the BBC.

Maryam Safajoo is a Tufts University alumni, a Persian American painter based in the United States and graduated with an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston. Her paintings narrate the stories of the contemporary situation of the systematically persecuted Iranian Baha’i community – Iran’s largest religious minority – after the 1979 Iranian revolution. She explores cultural behavior and responses toward violence and human rights violations to encourage conversations that challenge the lack of representation of ethical behavior, people and voices in our global consciousness while highlighting the truth and necessity of freedom.

“I experienced this oppression myself in Iran. I remember the day in the early morning when government security forces burst into my home, ransacked it and took my father to prison; my younger sister was crying on her way to school. Later my sister was denied access to university and because of her quest to understand why, was placed in solitary confinement.” These are only a few examples of what Baha’is around Iran have and are currently experiencing.

Her paintings narrate these stories which are a result of her conversations and interviews with the people who were near or in these actual events. Many of the incidents she depicts only exist in the memory of those who experienced them and have no pictorial existence. In many cases if visual records did exist, they have been confiscated by the Iranian authorities in raids of homes. Her depictions are often the first time these events have taken visual form. She records the details of this history. For example, the shoes, clothes, artifacts, and environments seen in her paintings are very close to those that were there in the event.
Her works are academic in nature and all these paintings are based on qualitative interviews or archival research. It could even be looked at as a form of visual ethnography which captures experiences of an entire community which have had no prior visual existence.

Some of her paintings depict the stories of the persecution of her immediate and extended family, the stories that she grew up with in her childhood. As a child she often accompanied her family to visit the homes of the Baha’is in Iran who had lost members of their family due to this persecution. Her mother herself was in prison when she was 19 for about 2 years and nearly all her friends she was imprisoned with were executed for being Baha’i (Mona Mahmoudnejad, Zarin Moghimi, etc…). They would often visit the families of her cellmates and she would hear first-hand the stories of these brave individuals from their closest relatives. While growing up her home was filled with the various stories of the persecution of the Baha’is around Iran and were woven into the fabric of her everyday life. These experiences in her formative years had a very influential effect on her and lay at the heart of her current artistic practice.

She takes inspiration from interviewing, hearing, feeling, reading, and researching the stories of the Bahai’s of Iran.

Her paintings tell the stories of this systematic persecution— including execution or murder, arrest, detainment, and interrogation. Tens of thousands more have been deprived of jobs, pensions, and educational opportunities – including a systematic denial of access to higher education. Bahá’í cemeteries, and properties have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed, and many Bahá’ís have had their homes and other property seized or damaged etc. Throughout her work, she is constantly reflecting on the concept of a humanity free from prejudice; that is how we can eliminate our prejudices against any people on the basis of color, nationality, gender or identity, economic or educational status etc. As we know, these prejudices can complicate the development of our community and prevent us from growing together, from building a better world. She poses and also asks individuals familiar with the events to pose and dress as the figures in her paintings. 
She primarily works with oil on Linen on small canvases and the details are often miniature in scale. Each of her 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.

Maryam's works are part of the permanent collections of
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
Dayton International Peace Museum, Dayton, OH
Albany Museum of Art, Albany, GA
NIU Art Museum, IL
Crary Art Gallery, a Nonprofit Art Museum, PA
And many other private collections.

Maryam has exhibited her work at venues including The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Massachusetts State House, International Peace Museum in Dayton, OH, Albany Museum of Art in Georgia, NIU Art Museum in Illinois, Crary Art Gallery, a Nonprofit Art Museum, and will be exhibiting at Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, Evanston Art Center in Illinois as well as Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown, West Virginia. She is a two-time recipient of the Merit award from the Pinacothèque Art Museum in Luxembourg, The Romero Award, “Stories From My Childhood” best in show award from Northern Illinois University Art Museum; She presented at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and her remarks at the AJC Boston Diplomats Seder was adapted by Boston Herald into an article. Her work has recently been featured by IranWire, Tavaana, PersianBMS, Radio Farda, Nashraasoo, VOA, Mass General Hospital Global OB-GYN Newsletter and multiple times by the BBC.