Wednesday, 25 March 2020

I've Got Something to Say that Only You Children Would Believe — A Book Illustrated by Abbas Kiarostami

Abbas Kiarostami had a long, colourful career as an illustrator, graphic and film title sequence designer, and photographer before his career as a filmmaker got kick-started in the early 1970s.

His slow success and even a slower international recognition meant that this first part of his artistic life had vert little chance to be appreciated in time and not surprisingly, it was overlooked even by his ardent audience. One could argue, his eventual coming back to these fields (plus poetry and installation) in the 21th century was itself a classic case of Kiarostamian "return" as often seen in his films: returning to a home, to a place, to a landscape, in this case, to old passions.

A great portion of the achievements of these early years remain unavailable but here we have a wonderful example of his illustration work which he contributed to a children book, written by modernist poet and author Ahmad Reza Ahmadi.

One of Kiarostami's illustrations for the book

Published in 1969 by Kanoon (Center of Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults), shortly after Kiarostami joined the institution, I've Got Something to Say that Only You Children Would Believe is another example of prominent intellectuals and artists using Kanoon's resources as a pretext to tell their own stories with possibly some political undertones. The text might be too experimental for children whose targeted age group I don't know but the illustrations by Kiarostami are absolutely exquisite.

Combining photography, graphic arts and painting, some of them prefigure Kiarostami's future films from Colors (1976) to 24 Frames (2017).

Another page designed by Kiarostami

You can download a PDF version of the book here.

There is another interesting story about the book: Attached at the end of the PDF file are letters from the Ministry of Culture demanding changes (i.e. censoring) for the second edition of the book which came out in 1971. I can't still figure out what made the censor sensitive to the content on pages 6 and 20 but if there's a lesson in this, it's that censorship in Iran has always been as stupid and pointless as it is today.

Special thanks to Morteza Seyyedi-Nejad who has scanned and shared online this rare and precious publication.

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