A Reflection on The House is Black

By Holly Bullis

“One can be like a wind-up doll and look at the world with eyes of glass, one can lie for years in lace and tinsel a body stuffed with straw inside a felt-lined box, at every lustful touch for no reason at all one can give out a cry “Ah, so happy am I!”’

A woman wearing a white dress dances on stage while holding a microphone.

As she recites the last stanza of Forough Farrokhzad’s poem “Wind Up Doll,” Sussan Deyhim is blindfolded, and pushed from her place of influence to make way for a plastic mannequin. This image is burned in my memory days afterward.

As we walked to the performance that night, my partner and I speculated about what we would see. After being confronted with the intricate layers of graphics, music, poetry, and history Deyhim seamlessly folded together in “The House is Black” we were not disappointed.

She started with history, showing dates from the late 1800’s to 1930 and describing important developments from those years. When the ticking numbers reached 1930, Forough Farrokhzad’s picture appeared on the screen and we were immersed in a poem. Farrokhzad is called the godmother of Iranian poetry, from the 1930’s to her death in 1962 she was, and still is, controversial. Coming into this I was completely unfamiliar with Iranian poetry, but my ignorance was no obstacle to Deyhim. She brought the performance to my level allowing me to understand by showing the events in Farrokhzad’s life that simultaneously fueled and critiqued her work.

Farrokhzad’s poems we’re read in Persian–my English speaking partner and I basked in the flow of the smooth tones. Once again Deyhim did not leave us behind, translations of the poems were displayed on screens allowing us to experience the poem while also understanding it. Deyhim’s fluid instrumentals and haunting vocals danced in and throughout each poem.

Deyhim’s songs, and graphics, inspired by Farrokhzad’s poems show not just what it feels like to be an Iranian woman but what it feels like to be a human. These two women choose to reflect upon universal emotions. Like in Farrokhzad’s poem “Wind Up Doll.” The option to be a wind up doll is open to us all. We have the ability to be what is expected of us, default option dolls occupying rolls of influence. Sometimes we lock ourselves in our own boxes convincing ourselves we are happy with our limited view of the world. If we choose to be dolls we choose to take the path of least resistance, to ignore the culture and humanity of Islamic nations instead of choosing to reach for understanding.

Deyhim stepped out to show her inspiring culture. She invited me into her world. Showing that human experiences, emotions, and poetry cross cultural lines. Now I am left with an obligation to share what I have seen to encourage others to reach out and learn from their fellow humans.

Subscribe to Our Email List

Sign Up