Mokarameh Ghanbari
Julie Costanzo

Mokarrameh Ghanbari passed away in October of 2005 at her home. Meryl Streep will capture and portray her extraordinary life in a forthcoming Fox Film production.

It wasn’t until she was 64 that Mokarrameh Ghanbari managed to start painting. Up until then she’d been busy: over the years, she’s raised nine kids and worked variously as a seamstress, hairdresser, midwife, healer and oven-maker.

Now, at 70, she’s beyond prolific; she’s painted the gate to her house — and everything beyond. The walls of her tiny home are covered with paintings telling stories from the Qu’ran, the Bible and her life. It started when one of her sons brought her a bit of scrap paper…when he returned a month later, all 50 sheets had been filled. And so it continues.

At first, the neighbors weren’t so sure about her work — it wasn’t clear if someone, particularly a woman, ought to be painting all those religious scenes. These days, though, if you show up at her agricultural village in the plains below the Alborz mountains, villagers will happily point the way to the home of their local celeb.
Still, life’s not all about painting. Mokarrameh can still be found out working the fields and tending to her home.

From the Interview

“I started painting on small things when I felt lonely to help me cope.”

“For four years I would only paint at night, and if I had an unexpected visitor I would hide everything very quickly…The mentality was that a farmer should have nothing to do with paper, because it is just a waste of them and nothing would come out of it. “

“[My son] came and asked me, ‘mother what is that you’ve drawn?’ I said, ‘Well it’s Adam and Eve.’ He said, ‘Why did you draw them naked?’ And I said, ‘What is wrong with that?’ Then he asked, ‘Would you have drawn your family naked?’ Then I said, ‘Well, when God created us we were all naked.’… He didn’t talk to me for ten days. On the other hand, because I was very angry at my son, I painted two other naked Adam and Eve paintings.”

“I always have something to do. In the house I either clean up or paint. I never sit idle and I don’t take a nap in the afternoon like other women.”

Coordinates: Iran

Mokarrameh Ghanbari

village visionary


Ghaem Shahr, Iran

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