top of page

SNAKES AND LADDERS - Fa Razavi at The Bomb Factory Holborn

The Bomb Factory presents Snakes and Ladders by one of our very own artists in residency Fatima Rezavi. Fatima is an Iranian artist based in London. She studied graffiti design and sculpture in Tehran, Iran, Fine Art at Middlesex University, London, and was the winner of the  Freelands Painting Prize 2022.

Rezavi draws on her experiences growing up in a devoutly religious household, living in Iran and subsequently relocating amidst safety concerns, which brought her to the United Kingdom. Her work reflects her experiences both as a woman from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and an immigrant in London, and aims to spotlight the resilient spirit of the women and youth in Iran who continue to risk their lives to challenge the oppressive regime.

Rezavi employs the classic board-game of Snakes and Ladders to create parallels between the structure of the game and that of the Islamic regime in Iran. The ascending ladders stand as potent symbols, embodying the commendable strides achieved in social progress by preceding generations, such as the enduring legacy of women's suffrage and the civil rights movement.

Players fortunate enough to ascend these ladders mirror the positive impact of historical movements that paved the way for societal advancements, showcasing the transformative power of collective efforts. In contrast, the descending snakes assume the role of poignant emblems, serving as reminders of the persistent obstacles posed by entrenched patriarchy and societal norms. These snakes lead to setbacks, symbolising the challenges that individuals, especially women and the youth, face in their journey towards societal advancement.

This visual metaphor reinforces the idea that societal transformation often necessitates a confrontational stance against existing norms. Thus, in the transformative process every defeated snake metamorphoses into a ladder of opportunity. Rezavi highlights the potential for societal advancement even in the face of adversity, illustrating how each successive generation builds upon the victories of its predecessors.

Here is a short interview between Pallas Citroen, founder and director of The Bomb Factory and the artist:

PC. Where do you come from, how did you get to be in London?

FR. I hail from Iran, where I spent my formative years amidst safety concerns that eventually led my family and me to relocate to the United Kingdom.

PC. Your work often includes symbolic snake and ladder motifs in both your paintings and sculptures, what do these represent for you? 

FR. 'Snakes and Ladders' pays homage to the courageous young women in Iran who valiantly challenge the oppressive forces of the Islamic Republic. Their unwavering resolve and defiance against the status quo profoundly inspire me. Instead of succumbing to silence for safety's sake, they bravely confront the threats to our collective future, asserting that their struggle is for the generations to come. Despite their youth, many of these protestors exhibit remarkable fearlessness and determination. A poignant reminder I received once was that rather than succumbing to sadness, we ought to channel our emotions into righteous anger."

PC. The use of cultural references in your work seems to be a driving force , you seem to be critiquing the Islamic state and in particular, difficulties that women are facing now under the Islamic regime and their daily battles against the morality police, can you explain why  this use of symbolic imagery is important to you and how has this new regime impacted women's rights?

FR. I am in a battle against radical Islam and any entity seeking to subjugate women's bodies and minds. Growing up in a devoutly religious household, I yearn for a simpler childhood, yet I recognize the impossibility of altering the past. However, I feel an inherent duty to amplify the voices and shed light on the daily struggles faced by women in Iran. In my efforts to raise awareness, I endeavour to organize events, including a dialogue with an Afghan photographer who recently documented the situation in Afghanistan.

PC. Much of your work  draws inspiration from your culture in particular the traditional Persian knife dance, also known as Ragsheh Chagoo. You talk about how the use of knives in your work is emblematic of the struggle of woman in Iran , could you explain this.

FR. So Ragsheh Chagoo was riginally a joyous custom performed at weddings, where the newlyweds retrieve a knife is a traditional Persian dance they do at weddings in Iran, which gives the families of the bride and groom an opportunity to show off with money. The idea behind the dance is for the couple to retrieve a knife from the guests so they can cut the wedding cake.  But for me I see it as a symbol of repression of women in Islam, so the repeated motifs of knives in my show are both symbolic of the struggle that women face and as a defense tool against the subjugation of women.

PC.  Finally, what are your thoughts about living as an artist in the UK and what has it been like for you as a female Iranian immigrant?

FR. Navigating my journey as an Iranian artist in the UK has been both liberating and challenging. Here, I've found the freedom to express myself through art, delving into themes that reflect my experiences as a woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, amidst this newfound freedom, there's a lingering sense of guilt. I often question whether I've abandoned my people by leaving, rather than standing alongside them in their struggles against the oppressive regime. The longing for my friends, family, and compatriots is ever-present, coupled with a deep-seated hatred for the regime and a fervent desire for its downfall.

LOCATION: 103 Kingsway, WC2B 6QX

DATES: Friday 8th - 22nd March, 12 - 6pm

PRIVATE VIEW: Thurs 7th March, 6 - 8pm


bottom of page