Afshin Ghaffarian is an Iranian dancer. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Being a professional artist in Iran means you’re an outlaw and sadly, due to censorship and heavy policing, unless you become an exile, nobody will know of the difficulties artists in particular and citizens in general are experiencing in Iran in regards to freedom of expression in particular and freedom in general. But expatriating yourself from a country that birthed and shaped you is never an easy process. Nevertheless Afshin Ghaffarian is determined to use his relative freedom to bring Iran’s current problems in the eyes of the world and the world should start paying attention. We contacted Ghaffarian in Paris, where he currently resides, to talk about his life and his desires for his beloved Iran and discovered a young man and artist passionate about his artwork and his country alike.
Cat On The Wall: First of all we would like to find out about your choice of career. Why did you become an actor and a dancer?
Afshin Ghaffarian: I had chosen Art because of the sense of Freedom. I sensed that Art would respond to my desire of Freedom, to express myself totally.
When I was growing up, I understood that in my country I am not allowed to express myself freely and I don’t have Freedom in my art but I had chosen Art because I want to be free in my expression and I couldn’t tolerate the limitations and the censorship in my country. So I decided to continue my Art with all its difficulties because I always told myself that someone should start to reject the limitations although in a private condition.
COTW: What motivated you to continue dancing when the current political climate in Iran meant that you were putting your life at risk in doing so?
AG: The desire for Freedom was always with me and I never stopped myself because of the limitations around my life but I always tried to go over the limitations which confined my free Art.
In fact I never think ‘what should I do?’ but I always think about ‘what can I do as an Artist in my country in the path of Freedom?’
COTW: How did the experimental theatre group TANTALOS form? What was your involvement?
AG: “TANTALOS” was formed with some of my friends at university, we were 3 people who thought we can change our way from the conventional theatre, and we can work together in a private condition, to explore the different ways of expression in Dance and Theatre. We were involved with the body and vocal expression of the performers.
COTW: You mention you have a keen interest in the methods of Grotowski. What drew you to his work?
AG: We started our work with the inspiration of Grotowski because we saw some similarities between our condition and the Grotowski’s condition in the late 50s and 60s, both suffering from censorship and both trying to explore the new capabilities of the performers, physical and vocal.
COTW: Now that you are based in Paris, how do you fill your days? Also you have more or less voluntarily taken position in the current political state of Iran and people across Europe and France, as well as the world, are starting to identify you as a representative of freedom. Because France is renowned for being the country of freedom, equality and brotherhood, do you think you are today in the best place for people to start paying attention to Iranian people and their daily ordeal?
AG: I’m now in Paris, I feel homesick but I look for the Future, and again I ask myself ‘what can I do here with this Freedom in the path of Freedom for Iran?’ and I’m still trying to work here for the Freedom and especially for Freedom in my country!
There is no Ideal Country but France has been a great host for me and my Art so far, because nowadays I dance in the National Centre of Dance, and the French people helped me a lot so far.
4000 kms away from Paris, the country which I am officially a citizen of, the government treats me like a stranger but here in France where I am supposed to be a stranger they treat me like a French citizen.
COTW: Finally, what are your hopes and plans for the future for both your country and your career?
AG: I want to continue my artistic work here, I want to bring my underground work to the foreground of Freedom in France, I want to work on my ideas about Dance and Theatre, the ideas which I could never develop in my country. So as long as Dance is forbidden in my country and as long as I do
dance on the stage then I would be in the path of protest. Nowadays Dance is my weapon and I am armed with Dance and I will stay in the path of Green Movement toward Freedom in my country: IRAN!
Interview by Jo Whitby and CB Lux