April 15, 2021
Shiraz Arts Festival, held annually from 1967 to 1977, came along to combine the two great loves of Shirazis: celebrations and art.
The festival was held by the order of Farah Pahlavi, then queen of Iran, with the goal of displaying the works of prominent artists of the time, collaboration and cooperation with international art organizations and last but not least, sheer entertainment.
Shiraz Arts Festival was held every September in Persepolis, up until the first serious sparks of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It not only featured prominent artists of the country, but famous international artists as well. Farrokh Ghaffari, appointed by Farah Pahlavi, was in charge of holding the event and also traveling to Europe and attending international festivals to handpick and invite international artists who would later be featured in Shiraz Arts Festival.
The festival was meant to establish a link between the creative worlds of east and west, with the intention of familiarizing the rest of the world with the traditional arts of Iran, and help modern art flourish in the country. Artists such as Maurice Béjart, the French dancer, danced to the traditional Sitar played by Jalal Zolfonun, with a choreography inspired by Saadi’s poetry, testifying to the universal language that is music.
In addition to featuring musical talents such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ravi Shankar and many others, Shiraz Arts Festival also focused on theater. From more religious performances such as Ta’zieh, to a play telling the story of Rostam and Sohrab from the Iranian epic, Shahnameh, the festival was the perfect place to introduce Iranian-Islamic culture to the world. In the very last year of the Festival, Robert Wilson directed a piece of experimental theater that lasted almost 7 days.
What made Shiraz Arts Festival particularly appealing was that it was not an elitist event. It was designed to provide the lower and middle class with opportunities and knowledge regarding the arts, which ultimately paved the way for the growth of avant-garde movement in Iran.
In its 10-year run, Shiraz Arts Festival succeeded in many of the goals it set out to achieve, proving to everyone that when all else fails, art is the only means through which nations can get in touch with one another.
In 1967, Farah Pahlavi, then queen of Iran, gave the order to hold an annual art festival in Shiraz. Featuring arts such as music and theater from national and international artists, Shiraz Arts Festival was meant to bring the eastern and western cultures closer, as well as presenting the traditional arts of Iran to the rest of the world.