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A photo book by photographer Mahdi Ehsaei depicting the little known minority of Afro-Iranians in South Iran in fascinating portraits.
A photo book by photographer Mahdi Ehsaei depicting the little known minority of Afro-Iranians in South Iran in fascinating portraits.
62 backers pledged €13,112 to help bring this project to life.

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Afro-Iran: The Unknown Minority

€13,112

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- The Project -

Afro-Iran shows a side of Iran, which is widely unknown even to Iranians: a minority of people who influenced the culture of a whole region by continuing their African heritage with their clothing style, their music, their dance and their oral traditions and rituals. I set out to the Hormozgan Province in the Persian Gulf to shed some light on this part of Iran, which is home to the descendants of enslaved people and traders from Africa. 

The traditional and historical region with one of Iran’s most ethnically diverse populations is framed with unique landscapes. The photo book shows fascinating portraits which are not typical for the common picture of Iran. '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. 

These two children in one of the villages near Bandar Abbas are cousins. They show the present cultural diversity in Iran.
These two children in one of the villages near Bandar Abbas are cousins. They show the present cultural diversity in Iran.

The Prehistory

Some years ago when we were on summer vacation in Iran with my family and some friends, I saw an Afro-Iranian man for the first time. We went to watch a football match in the in Shiraz, where my father is from. It was the match between Bargh Shiraz FC and Aluminium Hormozgan FC. For the first time ever I saw a black Iranian man. He also happened to be the fan leader of the opposite Team from Hormozgan. I was quickly appealed by the way the opposite fans joyfully and rhythmically chanted for their team. Being someone who likes to record things, I decided to capture that moment on video.

After this, I began to become more aware of not only the term ‘Afro-Iranians,’ but also of the experiences of the individuals who were part of this community. The subsequent closer look surprised me a lot. It let me get to know another and fascinating portrait of Iranian culture. This is what I wanted to pass on with my photographic work.

- The Photo Book -

The photo book Afro-Iran – The Unknown Minority includes portraits I extensively documented in Summer 2014. The publication will feature about 60 portraits and mood pictures as well as essays that explore the historical and cultural significance of a unique minority which has even shaped the culture in South Iran.

'Afro-Iran' will be the first published book which exclusively shows and documents the Afro-Iranian people. It also describes the more than 500 year old history of Africans being employed in Iran by foreign slave traders up to their freedom in 1928.

The 'Chador Bandari' is a lightweight garment worn on the outside by women in the southern parts of Iran. This Afro-Iranian woman with her baby is a perfect example of Persian and Western culture colliding.
The 'Chador Bandari' is a lightweight garment worn on the outside by women in the southern parts of Iran. This Afro-Iranian woman with her baby is a perfect example of Persian and Western culture colliding.

The resulting portraits reveal new facets and unfamiliar faces, which are not typical for the common picture of Iran. They show details documenting the centuries-long history of this ethnic minority. 

A woman wearing a traditional mask named Borkeh selling vegetables at the Thursday’s Bazar Market in Minab, one of the cities near Bandar Abbas (Capital of Hormozgan).
A woman wearing a traditional mask named Borkeh selling vegetables at the Thursday’s Bazar Market in Minab, one of the cities near Bandar Abbas (Capital of Hormozgan).
The southern area of Iran is a very vibrant place with unique and vividly colored clothing, usually among women.
The southern area of Iran is a very vibrant place with unique and vividly colored clothing, usually among women.

The Hormozgan Province in the Persian Gulf is a traditional and historical region with a diverse and unexplored population. It is framed with unique landscapes and people with profound personalities.

Rain water lake in Hormuz Island
Rain water lake in Hormuz Island
A man leaning against one of the most sold cars in Iran, a Kia Pride. The nearly extinct cult car is the Peykan.
A man leaning against one of the most sold cars in Iran, a Kia Pride. The nearly extinct cult car is the Peykan.

Book Details

Anticipated cover of 'Afro-Iran'
Anticipated cover of 'Afro-Iran'
  • Title: Afro-Iran – The Unknown Minority
  • Artist: Mahdi Ehsaei 
  • Size: ca. 21 x 30 cm, cloth hardcover 
  • Volume: 96 pages with 60 color photographs
  • Publisher: Kehrer Verlag (Heidelberg, Germany) 
  • ISBN: 978-3-86828-653-3 
  • Release Date: September 2015
  • Anticipated Retail Price: $40
The Khaj-e-Ata Beach in Bandar Abbas (capital of Hormozgan) rests against the Persian Gulf. It is a popular place for inhabitants and tourists. Afternoons are filled with children playing on the beach.
The Khaj-e-Ata Beach in Bandar Abbas (capital of Hormozgan) rests against the Persian Gulf. It is a popular place for inhabitants and tourists. Afternoons are filled with children playing on the beach.
The southern area of Iran is a very vibrant place with unique and vividly colored clothing, usually among women.
The southern area of Iran is a very vibrant place with unique and vividly colored clothing, usually among women.

My Inspiration

The work of this book is inspired by the Russian-Iranian photographer Antoin Sevruguin. He was one of the first photographers and only artists who captured the demographic and ethnic groups which lived in Iran, and visually documented the diverse population of Iran for the first time. Sevruguin decided to create his own survey of the people, landscape, and architecture of Iran. Sevruguin’s work shows how much potential ethnographical photography can have in order to understand a population better, even after more than 100 years.
That was the moment when I decided to work on the topic of Afro-Iranians. My inspiration strengthened me more to document the widely unknown minority. A photo series which shows a firsthand account of the current presence of the often overlooked Afro-Iranians for the first time.

- Your Support -

By pledging your support you will be part of a history in the making of a book about an ethnographical topic which has never become an exclusive platform to tell its profound history and uniqueness.
So I'll really appreciate it if you help to spread the word about this project by sharing this link with your contacts. 



Thank you for your support!

- REWARDS -

Postcard choices:


FineArt print choices:


Poster choices:

***

Praise for Afro-Iran

Basia Cummings, Editor, The Guardian: "Mahdi Ehsaei’s photo-book Afro-Iran – a historical and cultural exploration of the African presence in Iran."

Kovie Biakolo, Senior Writer & Cultural Advocate, Thought Catalog: "The amount of diversity around the globe never fails to overwhelm me in a good way."

Stephanie Young, Blogger, Beautiful Decay: "Using youthful energy he creates a narrative focusing on the future set against a backdrop of the past […]"

Jason Lemon, Blogger, Stepfeed: "His photographs reveal the uniquely African, yet still Persian culture of these people."

Your Middle East: "A surprisingly new experience for the viewer, which shows the current presence of Afro-Iranians in Iran."

Links to the Project

Music Credit: Ramteen - Unforgettable Dream

Risks and challenges

Kehrer Verlag will publish this book in September of 2015. There is the possibility of a shipping delay due to unforeseen issues, but the publisher is very experienced with the production of fine art publications. We will do our best to publish this book on time and deliver the first edition copies to our backers by the estimated delivery date.

Without your support it is difficult for me to take the final step of a high quality printing. I have been receiving a lot of requests, inquiries about the book and even just letters of appreciations. I am very happy to see such an overwhelming feedback. To be in a position to satisfy all enquiries I need financial support.

That's the reason I decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to compensate the costs resulting from the enormous demands! I am hoping for your help to make this exciting project become a reality.

With your backing you have the opportunity to participate directly at the creation of this unique book and to be part of the history of the very first book about Afro-Iranians.

As a thank-you for your pledge you will receive rewards which you can find above. If you can’t pledge funding you can still support this project by sharing it with your friends and family, or in your social networks.

Feel free to get in touch with me at ehsaei@me.com for any questions.

Thank you for your support!
Danke für Euren Support!
ممنون از حمایت شما

Mahdi Ehsaei

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Funding period

- (30 days)