[Sarover Zaidi is an anthropologist, obsessing on architecture, art and other modes of being. Besides she runs ‘Elementary forms and the city’ and an itinerant future Guild for those who stand between the academy and the street. She has previously studied philosophy, worked in rural public health, loved and left Berlin, and worked in a bank.
The author would like to thank Samprati Pani for editorial and other lifeline inputs.
A version of this article first appeared in the Critical Collective http://www.
Dedicated to the memory of my father, who died February 2017, my eternal witness.
They ask me to tell them what Shahid means—
Listen: It means “The Beloved” in Persian, “Witness” in Arabic
—Agha Shahid Ali, In Arabic, 2003
Ali Shariati, the Iranian revolutionary and socialist, died mysteriously in 1977. Shariati, also a sociologist, wrote Jihad and Shahadat, a rendering of the historico-mythical battle of Karbala, retelling it as the first red revolution. Composed as a testimonial to the dead, Shariati portrayed the female protagonist Zainab as the last witness to this bloody battle of loss, death and mourning. Unfortunately, at the peak of Cold War politics, prior to Khomeini’s rise to power in Iran (1979), Shariati had been found dead under mysterious circumstances (1977). Shariati’s own death went without witnesses or testimonials, or the image and space of mourning it demanded. Forty years later, Azadeh Akhlaghi, a photographer, provides a testimonial to Shariati’s death, in her experimental series ‘By an Eyewitness’. Continue reading “On two modes of witnessing: Azadeh Akhlaghi and Gauri Gill”