SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

‘Black people of Iran’: Documentary on the Lives of Afro-Iranians in the Southern Coasts of Iran

‘Blacks of Iran’ Photo
Farhad Varahram (Tehran University & Iranian Documentary Guild)

Date: 18 January 2021Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 18 January 2021Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Film Launch

About this Event

This event commences with the film ‘Black people of Iran’, followed by a Q&A session with the director Farhad Varahram. 

Farhad Varahram

Farhad Varahram is an accomplished, award winning Iranian documentary film maker, born 1948 in Burujerd. He completed part of a degree in film making before starting his career in documentaries and returned to university to complete a degree in film directing at the Dramatic Arts University in Tehran. He has been a documentary film maker, ethnographic researcher and photographer since 1974. He was responsible for the film and photographic department at the ethnographic research and studies department of Tehran University (1975-1977). He is a member of the guilds of Directors, Producers, Documentary filmmakers and member of the Ethnographic Dept at Tehran University. He has published books and articles on wide ranging subjects, notably ‘Iylraah Taaraaz’ (2016) ‘Seyyed Sonaty dar Sahil Daryaye Oman’ (1982) and monographies on ‘Barguzary Maraasem Shutur Kushy dar Kashan’ (1977), ‘Rustay-e Uraman takht va Barguzary Maraasem Pyr Shalyar’ (1995) and ‘Taalaab-e Shaad Gaan’ (2019). He has received various awards for his documentaries, which include ‘Arus Moqadas’ (1995), ‘Az Alp ta Damavand’ (2011) ‘Bedun-e Shenasnameh’ (2016) and ‘Siyahan Junub’ (Black people of the south, 2015).

‘Black people of Iran’ In 500 BC, during the Achaemenid dynasty and thereafter, Iranian sailors and merchants carried their goods to Muscat, Mogadishu, Zanzibar, Darussalam, and Tanganyika. The frequent journeys resulted in the influence of the African culture on the traditions and customs of those who lived on the Iranian coasts of the Persian Gulf. After the conquest of Iran by the Arabs, some Africans came to Iran with the Islamic troops and settled down on the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf. 

During the 15th and 16th centuries AD, the Portuguese sold Somalian and Zanzibari black people on the coasts and islands of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Until half a century ago, the old black people still remembered the migrations. Many of these Afro-Iranians settled on the southern coasts of Iran in the provinces Khuzestan, Bushehr, Hormozgan, Sistan and Baluchistan and south of Kerman. There is not any precise or approximate statistics available about this population. Wherever on the southern coasts of Iran the Afro-Iranians settled down, they assumed the language, accent, and religion of the region. What they have not forgotten, however, is the cultural mementos they brought from their homeland, which have had a major impact on the culture of the southern region of Iran. Afro-Iranians have, especially, influenced the music of the people on the southern coasts of Iran. In most houses of Afro-Iranians, especially in the region of Hormozgan, you will find small and large tablas (African drums). Most of the musicians are wondering troubadours and called upon for healing ceremonies.   

Over the decades, during research in the region, Farhad Varahram forged a relationship with various inhabitants of the region and decided to make a documentary film about Afro-Iranians in southern Iran, with a focus on the unique aspects of the culture, music, lifeways, rituals and beliefs and their economy: livings made from farming, seafaring, fishing and work in various sectors. ‘Black Lives’ is a beautifully filmed glimpse into the lives of Afro-Iranians living in Southern Iran without narration, which allows the viewer to soak in the sights and sounds. 

Moderator: Roya Arab
Roya Arab is a musician, archaeologist and curator of cultural events celebrating MENA heritage, with a focus on Iran 

Chair: Angelica Baschiera 
Angelica Baschiera is the Manager of the SOAS Regional Centres & Institutes (Africa, Asia and Middle East)


This event is open to the public, however registration is required. Online Registration

Organiser: SOAS Centre of African Studies with the SOAS Middle East Institute and Roya Arab

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