Abbas Akbari

Looking For Arash in Pursuit of Peace and swift like the arrow flying from Arash`s bow moving towards Farkhkert. The wind, fulfilling Ahura Mazd's wish, accompanies him and the gods open a passage for him.

The First Search

Avesta, The Holy Book of Zoroastrians is the first book that mentions Arash. In the eighth Yasht we read, "… fast and swift like the arrow flying from Arash`s bow moving towards Farkhkert. The wind, fulfilling Ahura Mazd's wish, accompanies him and the gods open a passage for him." In this passage Arash is mentioned but the full story is not narrated. AbuReihan Biruni in "Asar-al-Baqiat", Mirkhand in "Rozat-al-Safa", and Tabari in "Tarikh-al Molok-val-Rosol" deal with details of Arash story. Surprisingly, Ferdowsi in his epic, "Shahnameh", provides no account of Arash story. He just mentions Arash as the ancestor of Ashkanid.
Epic of Arash is the story of war between Iran and Turkistan. Afrasiab, King of Turkistan, overcomes Iran army led by Manoochehr in Mazandaran. Iran Army has no choice but to accept the peace deal. To humiliate Iran Army, it is agreed that Iran boarder is determined by the range of an arrow thrown by Iran Army. This task is assigned to Arash a noble skillful archer. Contrary to what is expected, his arrow flies in the sky for hours and covers thousands of kilometers. The epic then turns into a myth where it is said Arash gives up his soul and departs for the sake of his land and nation. The arrow after flying such a far distance hits a walnut tree and stops. This is where Iran boarder is set and the war ends.

Arash in our Memory

We also find Arash in some contemporary writings. The most outstanding is Siavash Kasraee's (1959) poem " Arash The Archer". "It is snowing, it is snowing over thrones and stones, the mountains are silent, the vallies sad, and the roads awaiting Karvans that bring the sounding of bells.…. Yes, yes, he has injected his soul into the arrow, he did what thousands and thousands of swords could not.
In another classic piece of poetry by Mehrdad Avesta (1965), "The epic of Arash" once more he reminds us what Arash did;
"What a forceful arrow
Flying from Sari to Jihoon
What a glorious soul
That flies over to Iran boarder
Sometimes a man from heaven
Saves an army with his life
In an arrow he gives up his soul
And lights up dark days of his nation"
In a play about Arash Bahram Beizaee (1966) in "Three play readings" depicts a different picture of Arash. In the play, Arash is depicted not as an archer in the military, rather a horseman in Iran army. He shoots the arrow not by his hand power but with his love. The play magnifies the mythological face of Arash. "We are standing at the foot of Alborz, our blood enemy is facing us with an ugly smile. And I know some people who believe Arash will come back."

A Lesson

In 1997, when I was doing my master in art at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, I had my research course with Ali Hassori. As part of the course assignment, I submitted a literature review on the representations of myths in Greek and Iran sculptures. Reading my manuscript, he commented that contrary to Greek myths where myths are physically represented, in Iranian context they are abstract and have no material representation. I should thank him for teaching me a lesson I considered in the creation of this collection.

Development of Arash Collection

To me manifestations of art are rooted in the meaning of the word Ars. Ars is basically making art work that puts craftsmanship and artistic creativity together. Samples of practical art mix these two dimensions together. Such samples are serious but joyful, a quality that is lacking in contemporary art. A threat to ars is loosing the artisitic and creative dimension and reducing it to industrial production. I produced Arash Collection with such a view of art. Following such a path touches the artist with the joy it brings to the creation process. Modern artists make use of new technologies which deprives them of such joyful experiences in the creation process. I enjoy the challenges and hardship of this method. To me art is a serious endeavor.

Why Wood and Bronze?

Finding and preparing appropriate material is essential to the creation of a sculpture with a unique visual quality. This attempt usually fails. Knowing the challenges, I decided to use wood and bronze for making Arash Collection. During history, almost all arrows made by man are made of bronze or an alloy of bronze. The body of the arrows is made of different types of wood and the head made of bronze. As in Arash story the arrow hits a walnut tree and stops, I decided to make use of bronze and wood for making the collection. To integrate wood and bronze, I also used similar forms and forms resembling cedar tree.

Arash in Museums

No doubt, there are different subjects and social issues to inspire artists. I always visit museums to get some ideas or find forms and objects for manipulation and transformation to modern forms. Museums provide a shortcut for the artists. I came across Arash first in Iran National Museum, Old Perisa. There I found different types and forms of arrows. Each arrow gave me an idea but one single arrow was the best example of Ars I mentioned earlier. This arrow hits a bird, with front half of the bird on the front of the arrow and back half on the back of the arrow. The arrow was exquisitely made centuries ago. Arash Collection is inspired by such an invaluable heritage.

Before Me

Many other artists before me were inspired by Arash. In most of these works, there is a figure either with a realistic huge form or Futuristic structure throwing an arrow. Arash in my collection is neither young nor old, neither huge nor weak. He is merely an arrow in the air, not a figure. Arash in my collection is more compatible with mythological structure and artistic traditions of Iran. This is Arash as I understand.

The End

The collection seems to be about war and violence. However, Arash in my collection ends in peace. His attempt ends war and embraces peace. He injects his soul into the arrow to bring peace. Arash symbolizes those whose sacrifice ended war.

Abbas Akbari,
Kashan, Nov 2013