Sara and Ame Fereshteh
My family are Iranian and I am Iranian, I’ve got dual citizenship and stuff. My dad had three sisters, and his mum...my granddad on that side passed away quite a long time ago and the three sisters (he’s got two older sisters and one younger sister) and they’d all kind of married to different people over the years and got various different visas and citizenships, but then all ended up living in one big house in Tehran...the family house in Tehran.
In Iran they don’t have beds really. You do get them when some people...like who have western houses...but mostly what people have is, they have bedding that they lay out at night time in one of the rooms. I was looking around in the bedding for a pillow or something, and this like, came out and I said to my aunt, the oldest aunt, I was like, ‘what is this? It is very nice, what is it?’
Basically, when she was about fourteen... because my dad’s family are all kind of aristocracy a bit, but there isn’t aristocracy in Iran anymore because of the revolution, but they were. And so these three daughters were very socialite type girls. And my aunt, when she was fourteen, had some navy general chasing her round for her hand in marriage. And she wasn’t interested because he was like seventy. And my granddad didn’t think it was a good idea either...and she didn’t like him. But he kept sending her presents and this was one of the presents.
And it’s handmade and hand painted. It’s silk and stuff and it’s really nice. But she was like, which is so standard of her...I was like, ‘why is it in a cupboard?’ And she was like, ‘I don’t like it; it reminds me of bad things’, so I was like, ‘can I have it?’ So she was like, ‘yep’...just as if like it was a spare piece of Tupperware or something... like, ‘yeah, yeah sure’. To me it’s one of my absolute favourite things, but to her...she had a lot of original art and crafts and stuff, so to her it was like a thing of, ‘yeah we wanted to get rid of that for years but couldn’t.’ So yeah, that’s what this is and I like it.
It’s like an extremely rare and expensive comfort blanket.
Actually do you know what, it’s probably not. And I think that’s why she didn’t like it. Like she had a lot of stuff that was...she was friends with lots of film makers’ wives and artists’ wives and stuff, so she always had a lot of original artwork, and you know, that kind of stuff. Her taste was a lot classier than this; this is pink and it’s symmetrical and it’s handy crafts and stuff and she is not into that at all. She’s into modernism, abstract lines, classy gold...stuff. And she has lots of turquoise. Her name means Angel (Fereshteh) but her younger sister’s name is the word for turquoise. So she always bought loads of turquoise and my other aunt said it was just to piss her off. So her taste was almost kind of like...the way Iranian women think of style is quite Italian...French...that kind of chic look, and my aunt was definitely more like that, than this.
I’d say before she passed away, one of the things that would always make me think of her was something she’d say, which was like a kind of saying, but it works in English as well, which is ‘know your own worth’. Because she went from being this lady princess thing, to not..and had to still know that she was really worth a lot. And even after the revolution she ended up becoming a senior vice president of a big construction
company in Tehran. So she made her own money even after that.
In 2010 I was there for six months studying. She was sick and they were quite strict. It caused loads of little problems but I thought that it was fine. It wasn’t until I got home that I kind of realised that they’d been reporting every tiny argument to my dad and not been telling me that that had been happening.
I called her and I said in Farsi (because I speak it), I said that she doesn’t understand that when she says one bad word against me to my father, it’s like a drop of black ink in a bucket of water; it makes the whole thing grey. I am quite poetic in English and Farsi, but I remember saying it, and I knew it would hurt her feelings so much. But I’d had such a bad time, those six months in Iran. There were good points but it really affected me in a way that took quite a while to recover from... and that, apart from a couple of pleasantries a few months later...it was basically the last thing I said to her. The day that she died, I was getting a bus to go to London and I was late in walking to the bus station. I was like pelting it down the road and I suddenly remembered this thing that I’d said to her and I hadn’t thought about it for months and I was like, ‘oh no’ and I felt like shit and thought, ‘damn I shouldn’t have said that to her, I have to call her and apologise to her right now’. Then on the coach about two hours later my mum calls me and tells me she’s passed away.
We were going to the Villa. I was so bored at home so I went with them for the weekend and on the way she like stopped at a bunch of boutiques and was like, ‘you’re not coming to the villa dressed like this,’ and bought me loads of stuff, which...I loved when she did that...she did that kind of shit all the time. But I’ve still got clothes that I’ve never worn that she bought me because she said, ‘you can’t go out like this.’
She was very powerful. She was so powerful that when she sat down in her house her flowers would turn towards her. No shit, they did. I’ve seen it happen so many times, to the point where you’d start thinking it was just normal. They were like, ‘hello...’ and turn and face her over about three hours. It was amazing.
She was very powerful and she was quite sort of...she was definitely a rule breaker, in her own way. Even though she had really high principles of what was right and wrong according to her. She still divorced her first husband and went and got a job which was unheard of in early 1980s Tehran. Especially considering what she had been before all that.
She was definitely a lady...yeah definitely a lady. Even though she could drink beer and smoke like forty cigarettes a day, she was still a lady in a way that isn’t even about niceties and stuff. Although she had all of that, she just had that down in a way that takes years, I think, for people to master. That combination of womanly charisma and sensitivity but also absolute strength to say, ‘I am this’.