The Persian Club will host a Persian Culture Night recognizing the art, food and music of present day Iran at the International House.
Persian Club President Mehdi Bolorizadeh, a recent University of Tennessee graduate, hopes that American students will gain a new perspective on what life is like in Iran.
“We want to remind students that this is a very ancient civilization and culture and to take attention away from the tensions that exist between the two countries’ (Iran and the United States) governments today,” he said.
The culture night coincides with the Persian New Year, or Norouz, a holiday that has been celebrated for thousands of years on the first day of spring throughout the Middle East.
The cuisine will be foods that are typically served on Norouz, Mohamad Hadi Kassaee said, the vice president of the Persian Club and a graduate student in Chemical Engineering. The entrees will be “Sabzi Polo,” a dish of rice and dried dill cooked with fish, and “Zereshk Polo,” a similar dish but with barberries and chicken.
“For sweets, we will have something I’m sure most students will be familiar with: baghlava,” Bolorizadeh said.
Baghlava consists of layers of dough with pistachios or almonds in between held together by syrup. When the dough is cooked, it is cut in diamond shapes, he said.
Chai, a generic term for tea in Iran, will be served.
“Americans are coffee people. We are tea people,” Bolorizadeh said.
But, he said, part of the night’s purpose is to show similarities between different peoples and cultures. “All people are equal. We all enjoy a nice time and good food,” Bolorizadeh said.
He said about 120 people attended the first Persian Culture Night in 2003, and they will prepare food for a large number this year.
Beyond the food, Kassaee said Persia is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with great traditions.
“(Persia) really values art, like the Persian rug, along with science and its distinct music,” he said.
The Persian Gallery, a shop in Knoxville, will bring at least two Persian rugs to display. In 2003, they brought two incomplete rugs and showed how they are formed. Bolorizadeh said many people have an interest in identifying authentic, hand-woven Persian rugs and learning how they are made.
“Persian rug makers were deeply religious and believed that only God could make something perfect. They would intentionally put a faulty stitch, a flaw, into each Persian rug. In doing so, a ‘Persian flaw’ revealed the rug maker’s devotion to God,” Bolorizadeh said.
To demonstrate Persian music, a sitar performance will be given. Bolorizadeh said the sitar connects Iran to Tennessee because it is similar to a traditional Appalachian instrument, the mandolin. Along with presentations about Iranian geography, language and ethnic groups, Sarah Hillyer, an American who coached Iran’s women’s softball team, will speak about women in sports in Iran.
Overall, Kassaee hopes the night will provide additional perspectives about Iran and Persian culture.
“If you look at the news, it is not a true reflection of what the people are and what their roots are,” Kassaee said. “We want this to give the students more to think about when they hear the word Iran.”
The event costs $3 and begins at 6 p.m. today in the International House’s Great Room.