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  • Chelsea Faulkner


Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Persian new year arrived a few weeks back and BuildaBridge joined in the festivities.

On March 20th, BuildaBridge teaching artists, Sepehr Pirasteh, Alex Vogelsong, and Chelsea Faulkner joined multiple non-profit organizations, including: Afghans of Philadelphia (AOP), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), and Nationalities Service Center (NSC) to celebrate Nowruz with the Afghan community in Philadelphia. Nowruz is honored by many countries around the world, such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India, and Kazakhstan. This is a festival that originated within Zoroastrianism and celebrates the beginning of spring, as well as the new year. This year is 1401! There are many customs that vary regionally, but one common tradition amongst most regions is the haft-sin table. On the haft-sin table, are seven items that begin with the letter S. Each item possesses a different meaning for reflection on the holiday. Garlic (seer) symbolizes medicine, dried fruit of a lotus tree (senjed) symbolizes love, apple (seeb) symbolizes health and beauty, vinegar (serkeh) symbolizes age and patience, sprouts (sabzeh) symbolizes growth and rebirth, sweet wheat pudding (samanu) symbolizes affluence, and sumac (somāgh) symbolizes the color of the sunrise. There are additional items that get placed on the table beyond the seven S’s, such as hyacinth flowers, a goldfish, eggs, a book of Hafez poetry, and coins. In Afghanistan, haft-mewa, a mixture of seven fruits are included on the table.

The photo above is of the haft-sin table that AOP decorated for the holiday.

BuildaBridge teaching artists decided to offer paper and plastic eggs for people to decorate with paint, markers, and stickers at this event. In addition, Nowruz related coloring pages, an art activity about sabzeh (sprouts), and musical instruments were given to anyone who wished to engage creatively. Decorating the eggs gave many adults the feeling of nostalgia from growing up and engaging in this tradition with their families. Children were filled with joy and excitement arriving at the table with so many options to express themselves. Some painted or drew scenes with animals or family and others recreated the Afghanistan flag.

These photos include some of the 2D and 3D eggs that the children decorated at the art table throughout the day.

The coloring pages offered culturally relevant images of haft-sin elements, musical instruments, and food offered around this time of year at picnics. They also had educational components teaching children and people outside of this culture about haft-sin elements, as well as how to pronounce and write the words in Farsi. The more indirect benefits for our participants were focus, emotional release, and relaxation.

The photos below display the art table and sabzeh, which a participant made.

Lastly, some introductory rhythm lessons were taught by Sepehr with the tambourines and frame drums. The children were so happy to improvise with these instruments and build off of existing skills.

Overall, we had such a wonderful day. There was a fashion show, face painting, music, kites, soccer, and delicious food. We were so delighted to have been able to be a part of this holiday celebration with the Afghan community in Philadelphia and would love to be a part of many more festivities with them in the future. It is very apparent how impactful art is in many people’s lives, especially when dealing with crises and seeking refuge in another country. Multiple people came up to our table to express how art has impacted them in their life and transition to the United States. This is our only hope as an organization that uses art-making to provide a space for expressing emotions, processing experiences, and planning for the future.

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