Ancient Culture Put on Display

BONNIE SCHINDLER
El Vaquero Editor-in-Chief

Persian music filled the plaza as a young woman, dressed head to toe in candy-apple red Safavid-style clothing, harkening to a dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries, danced to the beat during Persian Culture Day on Nov. 11.

Students returning from the long weekend may have wished for more time off after seeing a mock set-up of a traditional Persian relaxation salon, spread out on the grass.

“This is how we (Persians) get together to celebrate and relax,” said Nima Hosseini, a member of GCC’s Persian Students Association, composed of Iranian students whose club bears the ancient name of their homeland. The salon contained a large platform that was covered in Persian wares, including rugs, satin pillows and colorful cushions, creating a soothing atmosphere.

Hosseini said people traditionally sit outside on the rugs, lie back on cushions, eat pastries, play backgammon, drink tea (or chay as Persians refer to it) served from a samovar (a large metal canister that brews tea), and smoke from a hookah. The elaborate layout of the setting is an important part of Iranian custom and the Persian Students Association wanted to demonstrate this.

“The club wanted to show the college Persian culture, especially after many other cultures on campus have been participating in the demonstration of their cultures,” Shant Sebag, president of the Persian Students Association said. The club’s purpose, as stated on the Associated Students of Glendale Community College’s Web site, is “to organize activities and events to promote Persian culture.”

The culture and customs of Persia date back to the time between 226 A.D. and 651 A.D., when the Sassanid Dynasty was in power, Hosseini said.

There was heavy fighting that brought down the dynasty, which geographically covered the current day Iran, Iraq, parts of Armenia, Georgia, parts of Afghanistan and southern central Asia. This was when Baghdad was named the new capital (which was very close to the old capital of the Sassanid leaders) and when the Persian influence came pouring into the newly named land. Much of the art and metal work that Iran is noted for originated in the Persian culture.

It has been noted that many pieces of art and metalwork, that Iran is famous for, originated from the Persian people and the culture day event on campus boasted many of these floral and design characteristics through the display of ancient crafts.

One such craft, a large round metal plate, showed the detailed and ornate style that Persian art is know for.

“We (Persians) are famous for our handmade crafts, such as this plate, which is made all by hand with the use of only a needle and a hammer,” club member Mohammad Omidghoemi said. “There are places in Iran where you can walk down long corridors, on the street, and you are surrounded by people hammering away.” The culture is also known for its tradition of rugmaking.

Persian rugs are famous around the world and not just for their high prices, but for the time it takes to create a single rug.
“These rugs take years to make, as they are all made by hand,” Omidghoemi said. While many handicrafts and art works came out of the Dynasty era, another staple item in the Persian culture also arose from the Sassanid period, music.

While older traditions of orchestra and symphony may greet the eardrums of the older generations, Persian pop pumped out of the speakers and into the noontime air during the event. Bands such as Mansur and Moine are popular among young people. While the pop music volume was hard to escape from, the sound of an acoustic drum began to drum a beat in the distance.

Back on the rug and cushion platform, Hosseiai played a beat with great intensity and enthusiasm.

As the music began to blend between genres of new age (pop music) and the traditional music (the drum), students from many cultures on campus began to tap their feet to the Persian rhythms, thus inviting the background and tradition into their movement.

The Persian Students Association next big event is in March 2004, when they celebrate the Persian New Year.