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Mehrdad & the Haft-sin table

Speakers Roya Arab and Mehrdad Aref-Adib talk us through the traditions of Nowruz as they appear in London, Iran and other places across the globe.

Nowruz is a Persian ritual, celebrating the new year at the point of vernal equinox. Nowruz has been absorbed by varied regions that were ruled and/or influenced by ancient Persia. Across the globe today, various practices can be found - reflecting the cultures and places that have adopted and adapted this ancient Persian New Year rite.

Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, it has been further disseminated by multiple waves of Iranian diasporic communities, filling parks with picnickers for sizda-be-dar to celebrate the end of Nowruz, no matter how cold the country they ended up in.

Archaeologist & Curator Roya Arab will provide a brief overview of the history of Nowruz in Iran alongside current manifestations of this Persian celebration from around the world, including the Mwaka Kogwa celebrated in Zanzibar and related to the Iranian ‘Shirazi’ settlers on the Archipelago and parts of East Africa. She will be joined by Artist & Curator Mehrdad Aref-Adib, who will illuminate the importance of Waterlow Park for London's Iranian community and unveil the symbolism and beauty encapsulated in the Haft-sin Table, a special feature of Nowruz celebrations. This talk will open with a traditional Iranian song sung by Leela Emadi aka Arghanun.


Roya Arab

Roya Arab is an archaeologist, musician and curator of cultural events celebrating SWANA heritage, with a focus on Iran. Roya has recorded with various artists since the mid-1990s. In 2000 she took a decade-long sabbatical from music, in pursuit of archaeological studies at IoA, UCL. Her research focuses on the impact of socio-political and economic factors on the ownership, interpretation, preservation & dissemination of cultural heritage, including limitations for academic dialogue and collaboration across international borders. Current interests include ‘what music in Iranian films reveals about changing attitudes to music in Iran’ and ‘the ancient connections between Iran and Zanzibar’. 

Mehrdad Aref-Adib

Mehrdad Aref-Adib, an artist and curator based in London since 1983, holds a fine arts degree from St Martins and the Winchester School of Arts. Additionally, he pursued European Art studies at Barcelona University and obtained a postgraduate diploma in Printing and Publishing from the London College of Printing. With a successful track record managing diverse areas, including graphic projects, TV productions, and websites, Mehrdad's personal blog received an award from Deutsche Welle. Currently, he channels his creative energy into producing digital and mixed media art, as well as curating cultural and art events. 


Leela Emadi

Leela Emadi, aka Arghanun, an Iranian traditional singer, transcends cultural boundaries with her captivating voice. Her recent Spotify release, "Az Jamadi," is a sonic tapestry inspired by the poetry of Rumi. For Arghanun, the voice isn't just an instrument; it's the conduit for soulful expression. As she states, "It's not me who sings; but my voice sings through me."

In her performance, Arghanun will navigate three sets of Avaz and Tasnif, each crafted in distinct Persian melodic styles (Gushe) and modal systems (Dastgah). The thematic heart of her presentation orbits around "Bahar," Persian term for Spring, breathing a sense of renewal and celebration into the ambiance.