As summer renders to fall, the streets of London have been filled with a compelling poster campaign that invites passersby to pause and ponder. Titled “Woman Life Freedom,” in collaboration with UNCLE, queer artist Sepehr Badiei showcased an evoking narrative of resilience and unity through their unique art project, dedicated to women’s empowerment.
This series seeks to shine a spotlight on the unwavering strength of women, not only in Iran but also around the world, where oppression against women remains widespread. The photographs celebrate the potential and power of community, capturing the essence of female strength through a diverse array of subjects and motifs.
Marking the tragic anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death a year later, at the hands of the ‘morality police’ in Iran, a poignant reminder of gender apartheid is still haunting the nation of Iran. Artist Badiei, inspired to create awareness and pay homage to the strength of women, is running this campaign as a profound response to the gender apartheid experienced by Iranian women.
Sepehr Badiei’s journey, a testament to their own resilience, took them from Iran during the revolution to eventually finding refuge in New Zealand as a status holder. Leaving school at just fourteen, Badiei followed their passion for hairdressing, which has now become a central component of their artistic practice. Their work revolves around collecting hair from women and transwomen worldwide, transforming it into otherworldly installations that symbolise a resolute belief in equality and avant-garde aesthetics.
Therefore using hair as their primary medium, Badiei addresses the recent ban on hair and beauty salons in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, highlighting the beauty and provocation inherent in the symbol of hair.
In their photographic series, seen through the lens of Morgan White, the artist finds their inspiration in two key motifs from Persian culture. The images of Sarah Q, in hues of blue, embody the cypress tree, representing the tree of life and reincarnation. Her serene yet powerful presence speaks to the collective possibilities of global female unity. The Fire images, featuring model and dancer Dafni Krazoudi, symbolise the ability of women to rise from the ashes, like a phoenix, even in the face of oppression, defying tyranny and persecution, drawing from the purity associated with Zoroastrianism and the holy fire of the Assyrian civilization.
“Woman Life Freedom” stands as an ode to female strength to the collective strength of women worldwide and the beauty that lies in their resilience to overcome life’s challenges. Badiei’s mission is to combat one-dimensional Western conceptions of Iranian women, linking people from their homeland to the world and shifting the focus onto the beauty of stories of female strength. Through their art, Sepehr Badiei urges us to celebrate the beauty in our own strength and to stand together, united in the face of adversity.
In the heart of this project, a poetic symphony follows—a verse composed with fervour and purpose, intertwining art and advocacy. This poem is more than just words; it’s a battle cry for change, a number that beckons you to listen, feel, and act.
“A year has passed
Behold, a gender apartheid unfolds in Iran
When Mahsa Amini, her fate unswirled.
By “morality police” her life torn away,
beaten by hands of hate.
In a headscarf’s world.
Women in Iran sacrificing their liberty
Their lives and freedom, a treacherous affair.
Braiding hair strands
A bond so deep
Yet in their tresses, resilience shines in darkest night.
A symbol so deep
– Sepehr Badiei
A Thread of Resilience and Revolution
Artist: Sepehr Badiei / @badieisepehr
Words: Jyothsana Selvam / @jyothsanaaa