Image by Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi, courtesy of Hemphill Fine Arts
Meaning of the title:
“The Simurgh” (pronounced Cy-Morg) is an ancient mythological creature originating in Iran as early as the 7th century. “Si murgh” meaning “thirty birds” in Persian is a powerful bird, which is still commonly used today as a cultural icon. The artists included (below) have an Iranian background, and with reference to the history of miniature painting, uniquely interpret traditional Persian mythologies.
Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi
Background on the Simurgh:
Farid Eldin Atar, a well-known Sufi Persian poet, wrote a story of the Simurgh titled “Conference of the Birds,” still one of the most celebrated examples of Persian poetry.
Atar presents the story as a journey of understanding the true nature of God. In his epic, all birds of the world gather and decide to pursue the mysterious and great Simurgh with the goal of making it their king. After encountering many obstacles, only 30 birds finally reach the dwelling of Simurgh. Upon their arrival, all the birds find is their reflections in a lake. Shedding the concepts of “self” and “other,” they realize that collectively they are the one Simurgh, and that the journey itself is the path to the truth of God. Although written almost 10 centuries ago, this story is echoed in contemporary tales, as well as in the practice of these four artists.