Afro-Iran is a part of Iran, which is widely unknown even to Iranians. It is somewhat surprising how the people from this region have remained relegated to the background for many generations despite their massive influence in Iran.
According to history, they influenced the culture of an entire region by continuing their African heritage with their clothing style, their music, their dance, and their oral traditions and rituals.
Afro Iranians are people living in a part of Iran; the Western Asian country is the only home they know as their ancestors were enslaved people and traders from Africa.
The traditional and historical region has one of Iran’s most ethnically diverse populations, known for its unique landscapes.
‘Afro-Iran’ reveals details documenting a centuries-long history of a community, which is often overlooked in Iran’s history, but which has even shaped the culture in Southern Iran.
Speaking on the Afro-Iranians and their influence in Southern Iran, Mahdi Ehsaei - a renowned photographer who has dedicated his life to showcasing Afro Iranians to the world:
“The well-known Iranian music style Bandari which has roots in African tribal music is an important part of the lives of the people of the Persian Gulf region. It is very rhythmical and easy to dance to.
“The women also have interesting and different clothing styles. The Chador Bandari is a lightweight garment worn outside by women in the southern parts of Iran.
“It has very colorful patterns, mostly with flowers. You see a lot of that in the portraits of the Afro-Iran series.”
Photographs by Mahdi Ehsaei have not only shocked millions of people around the world but has surprised the majority of Iranians themselves who admitted they never heard of the existence of Afro Iranians in their country.
The African traditions evident in the daily practice of the Afro Iranians have throughout the centuries been passed on and heavily practiced by the rest of the population in Southern Iran.
The African culture and traditions are now an integral part of the people living in Southern Iran.
Mahdi believes strongly that regardless of their poor recognition and admission of their existence, Afro-Iranians feel like a part of Iran.
“Aside from the color of their skin and their concentration in particular locations, they aren’t any different than other Iranians.
“They feel Iranian and feel uncomfortable being asked about their origins. Some of them know of their cultural background, some don’t”, he says.
Why do Iranians know so little of such an influential group of people living within the confines of the same geographical borders? According to Mahdi, it’s due to a lack of information.
“Unless you don’t go to the south of Iran you almost won’t see any black Iranians. This minority is more unrecognized in the north of Iran.
“A lot of Iranians encountering a black person think they’re just tourists or just businessmen from Africa or Saudi Arabia.
“Even the people in the south aren’t aware of the centuries-long history of the African diaspora of the Persian Gulf and the Afro-Iranians. Without anyone educating you about the Afro-Iranians you will never know.”
What are your thoughts?
Header Image Credit: Mahdi Ehsaei