News / Arts

New artwork commemorates life of Iranian martyr

The mural was unveiled during Refugee Week in June

The artists who produced the new mural at its unveiling with Merri-bek Mayor Angelica Panopoulos (far left). Photo: Merri-bek City Council

Poppy Searle
Wednesday, July 5, 2023

A POWERFUL new mural on the north side of the Brunswick Baths pays tribute to a young woman whose martyrdom has inspired an uprising in Iran.

Titled Graffiti for Jina, the artwork is the creation of Feminista Melbourne, a local art collective consisting of talented Iranian artists and activists.

The mural portrays Jina ‘Mahsa’ Amini, a young Kurdish woman whose death sparked a series of uprisings in 2022 and 2023, as well as a protest by a member of the Iranian women’s football team.

Amini, who was arrested and beaten by police for not wearing the ‘proper’ hijab in public, is commemorated in the artwork which serves as a reminder of the power of collective action and community collaboration. She died on September 16 last year in Saqqez in western Iran, two days after she was detained.

Unveiled during Refugee Week on June 20, the mural not only commemorates the memory of Jina Amini but also highlights the challenges faced by refugees worldwide.

At the launch, Merri-bek Mayor Cr Angelica Panopoulos expressed her hopes that the artwork would remind the area’s refugee population “that they belong and are valued as part of our community” reinforcing to them of the long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers in Melbourne’s inner and northern suburbs.

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The artwork is dominated by the profile of Jina Amini, based on a photo of the 22-year-old, but with her hair flowing in the breeze without the restriction of a hijab. The message “Respect my existence or expect my resistance” is scrawled in large letters on the left-hand side of the mural.

The founder of Feminista Melbourne, Nazanin, explained that the group is committed to using street art as a means of communication that transcends linguistic and political barriers.

Nazanin said the group was dedicated to “fighting a dictatorship using religion as an excuse for persecuting other people”, and it was no longer safe for any of its members to return to Iran.

She said that street artists “leave their mark” on public spaces where they’re not allowed, creating a platform to connect with people in a unique and powerful way.

“Artworks connect with people beyond language, beyond politics,” she said. “There is so much meaning going out of it, connecting with people on the street.”

Several artists contributed to the design and painting of the mural, which was overseen by Nazanin. Visual elements include a tombstone, flowers and protesting athletes.

In the original design Jina had a halo similar to those used in religious paintings, but this became the sun in the final design to represent the Kurdish tradition of women being seen as the “source of life and family” and being compared to the sun.

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Nazanin emphasised the significance of community collaboration in bringing the mural to life, explaining that “each section is a different person”. This collaboration reflects the shared goal of the local art group, which consists of artists and activists dedicated to using art as a tool for social change and cultural expression. The mural is a testament to their commitment to amplifying diverse narratives and promoting inclusivity within the Brunswick community.

Since its unveiling, the mural has become a source of fascination and discussion among locals. Its public display of creativity serves as a reminder that art has the power to overcome borders and ignite conversations that challenge societal norms. Through this engagement, the mural aims to create a more inclusive and empathetic society.

Nazanin expressed the importance of representing Jina Amini and Iranian athletes, both as a tribute to their individual struggles and as a powerful reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by Iranians in their quest for justice and equality.

The mural stands as an emblem of hope, inspiring locals to continue fighting for positive change within our own community and beyond.

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