SUITE/Space 2023 -24 | Nava Derakhshani | Meet Me Between Tehran and Mbabane
Meet Me Between Tehran and Mbabane
Conceptualised, produced, and directed by
Nikki Farahanchi, Dani Criss, Tina Bararian, and Nava Derakhshani
Musical collaboration by
Audio Storytelling by
Mahnaz Khayam and Mojgan Derakhshani
Lighting Design by
Festival Stage Manager
Sound Board Operator
Stephanie l. Carlin
January 31 at 9:00 PM, February 1 at 9:00 PM, & February 4 at 9:00 PM
Runtime: 45 minutes
Masks are required for all SUITE/Space performances, except mask-optional installation spaces. After each performance of Meet Me Between Tehran and Mbabane, the theater will transition into a mask optional space for the tea service, and those who wish to stay will be served tea and cookies until 10:30pm.
150 First Avenue (Second Floor), NYC 10009
Inviting you into her global-diaspora experience, artist Nava Derakhshani sets the stage of belonging between these two cities. The first is her mother’s birthplace in Tehran, Iran and the second is her own in Eswatini, Africa.
Shadow play is used for world-building while exploring Iranian-African dance fusion. Expanding on themes of migration and loss, the work speaks to the Woman Life Freedom movement in Iran. It integrates storytelling from the artist’s mother and khaleh (aunt) while using protest chants from the streets of Iran. The performance is animated by live piano and percussion, where dance is conceptualized as a form of spiritual resistance.
Tea will be served after the show.
Content Warnings: Revolution themes from Iran, including execution verdicts
Nava Derakhshani (she/her/hers) is a New York-based mixed-media artist. Born to Iranian parents in eSwatini, her work explores themes of migration, identity, belonging, gender, and the natural environment. She holds a BA in architecture from the University of Cape Town. Her Master’s in Sustainable Development took her to rural Ethiopia where she used photography and oral histories to explore spiritual ties to farming and conservation. Her practice is influenced by her experience in low-cost eco-housing and urban design, as well as her NGO and grassroots work in human rights, social justice, and sustainability. Her work has been presented at the Johannesburg International Art Fair, the UN FAO Rome headquarters, Cape Town Queer Feminist Film Festival, the Washington Post, Lensscratch, and Aint-Bad Magazine, among others.
Special thanks to my Mom and Khaleh joon for your brave and raw recollections.
You are my inspiration. I love you dearly. Thank you to my team of collaborators who went above and beyond to recreate this the work with me. For your generosity, inspiration, and creativity. Thank you for the kind support from the Mabou Mines team and advisors. A huge thank you to my team at The Center for the Less Good Idea for creating space to make this work possible.
Meet Me Between Tehran and Mbabane was first conceptualised and produced at The Center for the Less Good Idea, Johannesburg, South Africa. Co-curated by Mandla Mbothwe and Athena Mazarakis, and developed by the artist in collaboration with Thulisile Binda, Muzi Shili & Sibahle Mangena (dance and choreography), Cara Stacey (music), Bongile Gorata Lecoge-Zulu (direction), and Nthabiseng Malaka (costume design). The work was premiered in New York at Culture Lab LIC as part of their Annonymously from Iran group show directed and produced by the artist.
Dani Criss (she/her/The Artist) Affectionately known as Dani Criss, The Artist; a multidisciplinary artist, artistic educator, and community organizer hailing from Durham, North Carolina, now based in Brooklyn, NY. Educating through the principles of the African Diaspora, inspiring an appreciation, acceptance, and historical experience in each interaction; Using movement and knowledge as the source to obtain liberation while discovering ancestral connections within the liberative practices.
Criss has trained and performed with numerous artists, companies, and festivals in the United States and abroad. Works and research have been shared in various ensembles, theaters, schools, universities, festivals, and conferences around the country including Harvard Graduate School’s Hip-Hop Ex Lab, Collegium of African Diaspora Dance Conference, New York State Dance Education Association Conference, Arts For All Abilities Conference, and others. An artistic educator in primary and higher education in New York, NY and surrounding areas including NYC Public Schools, Nassau Community College, Mark Morris Dance Center, and several arts organizations around the city. Check out www.danicriss.com for more information.
Tina Bararian (she/her) is a modern dancer, choreographer, actor, and film director, holding degrees in Film Studies from York University and Dance Performance from George Brown College. After obtaining her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at York University, Tina relocated to New York City to further her studies at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. In 2023, she established her own dance company in New York and premiered her first piece, ‘Not Here,’ at Spoke The Hub residency, where she received the People’s Choice Artist award. Tina is the visionary curator and founder of “Dancers Of Iran,” a global artistic project and platform dedicated to showcasing dancers of Iranian descent.
Nikki Farahanchi (she/her) is a lover and learner of all styles of Persian dance. She is a University of Michigan Ross School of Business graduate working full time as an assistant buyer of fragrances for Bloomingdale’s while also passionately teaching and performing Persian dance and bellydance in her free time.
Shayan Azizi (he/him) is a believer that music is not music if it doesn’t make the heart dance or cry, Shayan’s core identity is rooted in the energy of music. A classically trained pianist, he is a fervent world music lover. He has been performing for more than 15 years, in multiple countries, and has shared his interpretations twice at TED. Stay in touch on Instagram! @Shayansmusic
Mahnaz Khayam left her home country at a young age which was an unthinkable thing to do at the time. She had courage and faith to leave a successful life and migrate to Africa, which she embraced as her new home. She was a small business owner in Mbabane, Eswatini, and through it, was able to support numerous families, and which was trusted by the King. She continues to serve in many capacities within the Baha’i community and is a cherished member thereof.
She is a dynamic and masterful storyteller.
Mojgan Derakhshani graduated from Tehran University with a degree in Business Administration. She then pursued her Masters by correspondence at Landegg International University, Switzerland, and graduated with distinction in Consultation and Conflict Resolution. She dedicated her time in Southern Africa to developmental work and was a key advisor in the region’s policies toward financial integration. She worked as a micro finance advisor and financial inclusion specialist with numerous government and non-governmental agencies, and with dedication to serving the poorest sectors of society. She continues to serve in her Baha’i community and currently works in the translation of religious text.
She is an evocative and thoughtful storyteller.
Nkumu Katalay (he/him) is an artist, orator, multi-instrumentalist, and social activist whose main objective is to promote humanity. Born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DR. of Congo and he lives in NYC. Nkumu’s vision highlights the contribution of Congolese cultures in modern world history. He is the founder of The “Life Long Project” Band, a musical group and a project which focuses on pushing the positive narrative of the Congolese culture via music and social-cultural and educational initiatives. He is also the founder of the Afro-Congolese Dance program and company. Afro-Congolese Dance programs have weekly mental and physical dance activities throughout New York City, in schools, corporations, or cultural centers for all ages from children to adults and seniors.
Music became Nkumu’s path to navigating the world, his cornerstone, which holds fragments of his identity together. The study of musical notes or beats, especially their movements, patterns, and how they are parallel to human cultures, remains his lifelong fascination. To Nkumu, “musical notes or beats are pieces of cultures residing within the realm of sound, and the ensemble of their interactions makes music.” Similar to notes, human cultures are fragments of historical formation, which gather under a specific civilization, and like notes, cultures are continuously seeking alternative manifestations. So, artistically, he discovered one tool after the other. Nkumu’s musical concept was cultivated via the Congolese “Mbonda” or “Ngoma” (drum) and movements (dance).
Reed (he/him) was born in Brooklyn New York into a family with a strong background in music. Traditional music was passed down from generation to generation and he was then free to evolve it to his likeness. Aside from the musical works he engages in, drumming has always been a passion that he returns to. His talents have taken him to places such as Carnegie Hall, the historic Arthur’s Tavern, and numerous stages across NYC. He believes music is a powerful tool that builds bridges or tears them down, it’s just all about the context.