I began my curatorial activities in 1995 when I was elected as the Director of one of Tehran’s first municipal galleries, Shafagh Cultural Centre. For the period of two years I organised and curated exhibitions related to the artworks and installations of Iranian contemporary and emerging artists. During this period, I also curated several exhibitions in different galleries in Tehran, including Haft Samar Gallery.
At the same time, between 1995 and 2000, I was one of the anthropologist-curators of the Centre for Anthropology of Iran which was part of the Iranian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts. During this period, I was responsible for the acquisition and collection management of Iranian traditional and folkloric garments and clothes. For this reason, with my team I travelled all around the country among small-scale societies and nomadic people to select related objects, acquire them and then transfer them to the Iranian national collection for display in different national museums.
In 2000, I started my PhD studies at the Sorbonne and then at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (supervisors: Thierry Zarcone and Monik Kervran), which was the continuation of my previous long-term fieldworks that I had conducted in Iran since 1990. In my PhD, I worked on and studied 1500 lion tombstones in the south and south-west of Iran. This project included the assessment of nomads’ sacred sites and lands where the lion tombstones were installed. As part of this project, I photographed, digitised, and assessed each of these religious objects one by one, including measuring, hand drawing, writing about their physical condition, and also writing significance statements.
During the completion of my PhD, I worked for a year (2000-2001) on Islamic funerary epigraphy under the supervision of Professor Ludvik Kalus (Historian and Islamic epigraphist) at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE) and a worked for a year (2002-2003) on Islamic manuscript under the supervision of Professor Pierre Lecoq.
Since 2004, when I began my research and academic activities at the University of Oxford, I have organised and curated more than 13 exhibitions in prestigious British, American, Australian, and Iranian universities and institutions, published six exhibition catalogues, and delivered 15 curatorial talks. The majority of these exhibitions were based on my own research projects, and were accompanied by an international symposia and public engagement.
Since 2011, as a visual anthropologist-curator I have been working on a photographic project, Visual Representations of African Slavery in Iran (1850s and 1940s). Hitherto I have visited more than thirty governmental and private archives and collections in several countries (France, Spain, UK, USA, Iran) and based on my museum studies, archival research and interviews (oral history), I have retrieved 1800 photographs of related topics. This project should be considered the first ever academic intervention and scholarship on this topic, and until today I have organised and curated 11 photographic exhibitions and delivered more than 50 curatorial talks for academia and the public in several countries.
In 2020 (24 February - 31 May), I curated the exhibition Aroosi: 150 Years of Iranian Wedding Traditions at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in partnership with the Farhang Foundation, which may be distinguished as one of the most important community based exhibitions connected to the Iranian community since 1979. Calling on Iranian families of Los Angeles and the world to submit and loan their traditional wedding arts, crafts and family objects, the exhibition comprised over 112 objects including textiles, photographs, religious manuscripts, and traditional arts and crafts. The exhibition was also accompanied by an international symposium.
I held the position of Curator of Persian Arts at the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) between July 2020 and January 2023. Though I was at the Powerhouse Museum only a short time, the Middle Eastern and Islamic collections have already become highly visible and have made a significant impact at both a national and international level. I was also instrumental in leading projects ranging from curating the exhibitions Iranzamin (19 March – 8 August 2021), Charkha and Kargha: Indian Textiles from the Powerhouse Collection (13 August 2022 – 15 January 2023), and Weavers, Merchants and Kings (8 September 2022 – 20 January 2023), to organising more than a dozen meetings with several stakeholders to discuss and implement future plans for the Persian and Islamic Collections at the Powerhouse Museum. I also organised several meetings with major Sydney-based private collectors and archive directors to discuss the ways in which the Powerhouse Museum may acquire archives and related art objects.
My ongoing interdisciplinary museum and curatorial research explores “How can contemporary museums and galleries shape the experience of cultural memory and national identity of a nation in Diaspora?”