- Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
I don’t remember the first time I saw one of Mona Forghani’s collages, but it was a moment of enchantment. The juxtaposition of the images she uses are thoughtful and charming, witty and wise. I find her works to be perfectly articulated visual metaphors, and I love them.
My path crossed with Mona’s at the Baha’i World Centre and since leaving there, I’ve been joyfully following her work on Instagram (@monaforghani). She gracefully agreed to tell us a little bit about her artistic process and craft. You’ll find a gallery of her images and some of her words below.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, which is also where I currently call home. My parents are Iranian, and my Persian is so-so, but good enough to hold a conversation with my non-English speaking grandparents (despite them laughing at my accent). I have an older sister who is one of the most creative people I know, and whose magazines were the first source of my collages. I spent half of my twenties overseas, living in Bratislava, Slovakia and Haifa, Israel, where I served as a volunteer at the Baha’i World Centre. I never had a strong idea of what I wanted to do in life, but after taking some first steps in the field of communications, I eventually became a lawyer. Outside of this, I love spending time outdoors, being in the company of friends, engaging in creative pursuits as well as any opportunity to just potter around. I grew up a Baha’i and continue to be inspired by the principles of the Faith, which I try to live my life by.
Baha’i Blog: What media do you work with?
I make collages, probably out of everything in your paper bin. Off-cuts from magazines, newspapers, wrapping paper, postcards, catalogues, old textbooks and cookbooks. Literally everything and anything with striking images and colours which can be cut and pasted.
Baha’i Blog: How did you get into collaging?
Completely unintentionally. I first started making “collages” probably around the time I was in high school in the context of trying to find art for my bedroom walls. I would flick through magazines or books in search of something I could frame and would often find myself thinking “I love this picture of this flower, but don’t like that background”. So, I would (literally) take matters into my own hands: cutting out parts of images I liked and re-mixing them with other off-cuts to create new scenes that I found beautiful. And the practice evolved from there.
Baha’i Blog: What is your creative process like?
Usually my collages are born from images I’ve found somewhere that I think are too beautiful to have them hidden in closed books or thrown away. Sometimes one image is enough to get my mind going – I find a core subject and know exactly what I’m going to do with it. Other times, I’m rummaging through various materials, mix-and-matching different pieces, until I’ve got an idea. Collaging for me is like putting together a puzzle; I keep playing around until I feel the pieces “fit”.
Truthfully, most of the time I don’t actually glue the pieces together: I assemble the pieces to create a new scene, maybe photograph it, and then dissemble it. I think this is because I find the process of creating the most fulfilling part, rather than the finished product. The Baha’i Writings state that “in this wonderful new age, art is worship”, which truly resonates with me. I find the process of creating akin to meditation: I’m definitely not sitting still in silence, but even with scissors in hand, my thoughts are silenced and spirit is energised.
I usually give my collages a title at the very end, rather than brainstorming a concept from the outset and then trying to illustrate it. I take a step back once it is complete and ask myself what I think the collage is about.
Baha’i Blog: What are some words of encouragement you might give to someone interested in trying to make collages for the first time?
Don’t over-analyse it, and don’t think it has to make sense! If you think an orange tree on the moon looks beautiful, then do it. At the end of the day, it’s about creating something that looks beautiful to you, and more importantly, the process you went through to create it.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Mona, for sharing your art, and your words with us!
You can find some of Mona’s works available for purchase from her Instagram (@monaforghani). She is also selling postcards made in collaboration with Melanie King Dollie through Papalote’s Etsy Shop (you may also be interested in this Baha’i Blog interview with Melanie).
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