Unsolicited love letters
Storytelling is one of the oldest methods of entertainment, and love stories are rooted in every culture. Love is one of the most influential common senses between nations. Passion and connection are the core needs of every person living in a society.
Layli and Majnun is one of the most acclaimed classic love stories in middle eastern cultures, written by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209). This story is the third book of the five books (Khamsa) by Nizami that was ordered to him by King Shirvan. The equivalent of this love story in western culture is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
The young Layli and Qays (Majnun) fall in love with each other. Their families try to separate them, and Layli is obliged to marry another man. At this point, Qays becomes a loner who lives in solitude, and everyone thinks he has gone mad, so they call him Majnun (meaning mad). Eventually, Layli dies of her love for Majnun, and upon learning that, Majnun comes to her grave and dies there. The two lovers are united only after death.
In this multichannel video installation, Layli continues to live a modern life in solitude while getting old. She writes letters to Majnun, who lives in another dimension in Neverland. She pictures Majnun as if he is still young and beautiful.
Through these letters, she talks about her days as a woman from the Middle East living a new life in a faraway land. She talks about her daily life, remembering those days, she lived in the Middle East, her relatives back there, and her lonesome life story. Writing the letters, she consistently tries to express her need to embrace the love of Majnun and to feel his passion again. Yet there are moments of liberty and redemption while she talks about all the male gaze over their classic story, and she tries to fill in the gaps from a female perspective. She reclaims the power of her character as an individual while talking about immigration, war, and rebuilding a whole life again and again. She has become a wanderer of peace and love. Through these letters, she explains her core need to be loved and connected while telling stories about the struggles she experiences in her social and personal life.
In this literature-based video installation, you see three videos running together simultaneously. The two side videos show Layli reading out loud her letters for Majnun, some in Persian and some in English (with subtitles). The video in the middle shows Majnun in the way Layli pictures him in her mind, young and beautiful. Majnun, who lives in the void (in other words, he lives in Layli’s dreams), responds to the letters through his limited actions while surrounded by the voices of Tibetan monks chanting mantras.
The visitor might choose to watch the whole installation together and move from one video to another or watch every channel separately and one at a time.
The duration for each video channel is 23 minutes and 44 seconds.
For creating the character of Majnun, I have been inspired by the movie The colour of pomegranate by Sergey Parajanov.
This three channels video installation is about love, war, death, and the causes of immigration.
*We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.