power of colors

29 02 2008

[By Shideh]   On our way to Iran from San Francisco, we stopped in Amsterdam to change planes.  Shawhin and I got our coffee and orange juice (I’m the coffee person and he’s the healthy one) and we were on our way to find the gate for the KLM flight to Tehran.  It turned out finding the gate was much easier than expected.  All we had to do was to follow the large number of familiar eyes who spoke Farsi very loudly.  It’s not common to speak loudly among Iranians, but somehow it seemed like we all wanted to make sure others noticed that we are Iranian, kind of like a signal, a way of communicating, a way to make sure other Iranians see us and can come to us if they are lost or need help of any sort.  

I felt the excitement of going home after 8 years; it was amazing being among all those familiar eyes, familiar accents, familiar smiles, or familiar complaints.  I realized in the middle of my excitement, however, that those eyes and accents were not our only guides to the right gate.  It was something much more visual and obvious: the black clothes!  Sadly I must acknowledge the current trend of fashion among my fellow countrymen.  Black, black, black.  All I could see was black, dark blue, dark gray, dark green, basically all sorts of varieties of black with different shades.  I told Shawhin if he noticed that we were the only ones not wearing black at the gate while we were waiting for our flight.  He laughed and nodded.  I saw that his happy eyes transformed to something more like worried happy eyes.  Well, I did not want to ruin this experience for him so I changed the topic.  I was however deeply concerned about the effects of this color on people’s everyday life back home.  Imagine living in a black city where colors are not widely accepted, are thought to be cheap, or are not even allowed in many public places.  I wonder if anyone in Tehran or other big cities in Iran worries about this, but there I was waiting at the gate deeply struggling with these thoughts and emotions.  I was emotional and excited with the thought of landing at the Mehrabad airport, seeing the Azadi tower when the pilot does a turn around it before landing, kissing the ground of my city, the city that really belonged to me.  My fear of black, on the other hand, was constantly on my mind.  I wanted to get the microphone from the flight attendant and ask all the passengers to change their outfits and wear brighter colors and was frustrated with my lack of power to do so. 

sanandaj-girl.jpg

A girl in Sanandaj, Iran, wearing traditional colorful costumes. Photo courtesy of Ddokosic

When we arrived, the intensity of emotions in every passenger outweighed any other thought.  We were both shaking with emotions and noticed that we were definitely not alone as many of us in the bus that took us to the main building were openly crying.   After regaining my strength and becoming aware of my surroundings though, it wasn’t difficult to see that dark colors are, indeed, the preferred theme in Tehran.  The “why” part is not important in my opinion.  My concern is if my generation can continue to promote this trend, or putting it differently, if my generation can afford to continue this trend.

Black is generally popular in western fashion because it makes people look thin.  However, dark colors are widely regarded as colors that promote depression, fear, suspicion, and paranoia.  I know that some psychologists study the effect and power of colors on different personalities, and they generally recommend avoiding black unless you can combine it with an opposing color like white.  In order to better understand my point, try to sketch an ideal city in your mind, a little paradise with all things you consider important for the health and well being of a society.  I bet you can come up with a large list for the requirements in your ideal city.  In your imagination, however, before even starting to think of details, can you sketch a dark city and continue planning the rest?  Another example to show the effect of colors: have you ever seen a mother dressing her baby in black (if she has the option not to)?  

Colors are essential parts of our lives and I think it’s important to pay attention to the messages we send to our surroundings by choosing the color of our dresses, overcoats, cars, interior of our buildings, exterior of apartments, etc.  Every person has the power to help fight depression and sadness (especially among the youth) in his/her environment when wearing a happy color (red, orange, blue, green,…).  It’s amazing how many people notice the difference and comment on colors every day in every society.  Why don’t you give it a try?  

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7 responses

29 02 2008
koohestan11

in iran, with respect to colors, i see a dichotomy.

on the surface, you see a city (tehran) lacking color: black clothes, millions of white/black car stuck in traffic, monotonous clothing, run-down buildings, black chadors, lack of emotion on the streets, lack of expression, lack of affection, lack of intimacy, society stuck on the past, and a society at times even longing to be depressed/nostalgic/mourning.

on the other hand, at its roots, i equally see a country full of color, full of curvy streets lined with trees, nature full of mysticism and spirituality, full of emotion, full of affection, full of natural beauty, full of hope, and overflowing with life.

….

do i have an analysis, solution, or conclusion to this? nope!

29 02 2008
Shideh

Interesting observation Koohestan11!
thank you for your comment. I understand what you are saying and agree with you. Iranians are colorful people at heart. There is a strong mystic aspect to the culture, as you said a lot of emotion, affection, beauty, and life. However, there is this aspect of the culture (talking about large “modern” cities) that is more or less confused about its desires. Perhaps it’s the longing to be modernized but the confusion of defining modernity in the superficial aspects of western life, such as following the negative aspects of western fashion among other things (if we ignore the internal push toward darker colors). It seems that has been the trend in larger cities for a long time. I can’t fully define it. Whatever it is, it has caused Tehran (and perhaps other large cities) to look dark overall, to look as if it’s in trouble.

The solution, I don’t know if there is any, or it’s too complicated to define and analyze the problem. I hope though, that the new generation starts to think about these details as that’s the only thing that we can do. Blaming the past may not get us anywhere.

I wonder if anyone knows of people in Iran who are working toward bringing color back to the city!

6 03 2008
شادی

هر وقت کسی راجع به ایران از من سوال می کنه جوال هام پر از تناقضه فکر کنم علتش اینه که ایران همون طور که کوهستان گفت سرزمین تضادها و تناقض هاست اونقدر که حتی نمی شه تعریفش کرد
نوشته ات منو یاد روزایی انداخت که ناظم مدرسه پاچه شلوارامون رو می زد بالا که نکنه زیر شلوار جوراب سفید پامون باشه و بند کفش های فسفری و صورتی که ته کیف هامون قایم می کردیم تا وقتی مدرسه تعطیل میشه تو کوچه پشتی با بند کفش های سفید یا سیاهمون عوضشون کنیم شاید ریشه این همه تناقض و سیاه و سفید بودن رنگ ها و آدم ها از سرکوب همین طبیعی ترین نیازهای انسانی میاد

10 03 2008
Shideh

Shadi joon,
thanks for your thoughts. I love your writing style.
yes, I remember those days (roozhaaye dabestaani va rahnamai) when we would go through so much trouble to add colors to our lives. For some reason, I was obsessed with pink (oon ham sooratee e shab rang) and carried all sorts of pink objects hidden in my bag back. I remember that my mom bought me a pink and green bag pack from Austria when I was in third grade. The principal at my school was about to have a heart attack when she saw the colors and tried hard to take it from me, as a punishment. After lots of crying they asked my mom to come to school and finally they decided to return the bag but I wasn’t allowed to take it to school any longer! Why was color forbidden for little kids? Why couldn’t my principal and others see how desperately we needed colors in our lives, perhaps we can explain to some degree:

One reason our generation suffered so much in Iran was the war with Iraq that caused death and destruction for 8 years (or more even after the war ended). The non-Iranian readers might wonder why colors were forbidden for kids in schools or generally not accepted in public places. I think the suffering during the war had a lot to do with it. Most schools adopted a policy to eliminate superficial differences among the students in order to avoid further problems. For example, there were many kids whose fathers had either died or were injured and disabled during the war and could no longer afford to buy fancy bag packs, shoes, etc., that were usually nice and colorful. As a result, most schools required all students to wear simple black shoes, socks, bag packs, etc. Fancy things were generally forbidden to avoid jealousy among kids and to protect those who could not afford it. I think this may not have been the best approach because it resulted in a widely negative and depressing atmosphere in schools where children are supposed to be motivated to learn and are supposed to have a good time (especially those who did not have a joyous life at home). Forbidding fancy objects may have been okay, but why forbid colors, laughter, happiness, and songs all together to protect some students? Instead, it would have been wiser to create a more colorful setting to cheer up and motivate those little faces who were supposed to build Iran’s future.

I must also add that many associate dark colors with being more proper and sometimes more religious and spiritual (in many religions). I don’t know how dark colors started to convey this message, but this is clearly nonsense.

24 08 2008
Anonymous

hi
Please see this site and present to others who like Iran and its places.
http://www.anjedan.com

18 10 2008
hiwa

salam khobi doosteton daram dokhtaraee ironi

22 05 2009
andy

nice picture!
thanks

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