Quakers Hill resident Shiva Dadvar is living her dream of working as an artist after fleeing her home country of Iran due to religious discrimination, having recently completed a mural along the Bondi Beach Sea Wall.
Shiva secured the opportunity through Waverley Council’s United To End Racism art competition: “One month after I registered for that, I got a message from one of the members in Council, asking me to send them more photos of my artwork,” she says. And after that, a congratulations email – I won the competition.”
The Bondi mural is adorned with the phrase ‘Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.’ The striking array of colours mixed with combined imagery of birds, butterfly wings and sharp geometry represents Shiva’s goals as an artist; her hope for the world to come together and heal.
A chance to display her art for millions of people was impossible to imagine for Shiva in Iran; she is a follower of the Bahá’í Faith, a group that is subject to intense religious discrimination in Iran.
“One of these types of discrimination is that you can’t go to university if you are Bahá’í,” Shiva says. “There is an underground Bahá’í university, but it has a very small number of courses, and art is not one of them.” Despite not being able to formally pursue an education in art, Shiva was still able to explore her creative side and even sell artworks with help from her supportive mother.
When she was an adult, Shiva left Iran with her husband and daughter to escape discrimination and pursue tertiary education. The family spent five years in Turkey, awaiting acceptance into either the United States, Canada or Australia depending on which country was taking refugees at the time.
When Australia was accepting refugees three and a half years ago, Shiva didn’t know which country would have been the best for them. “Obviously when we came here, we noticed that here is better because of the weather,” she says. “And because of the government as well.”
After completing a tertiary preparation certificate, Shiva had heard about TAFE through settlement services, finding it much more practical than traditional university education.”You get ready for a job much easier and inserted into the market if you choose a course in TAFE. So I applied for a Certificate III in Fundamental Design, and I found it very useful for one who wants to start in art.” Soon after completing the course in 2021, Shiva was able to win the mural competition.
The skills that Shiva gained from the course are evident in the Bondi mural. Influenced by the surrealist works of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí, her work evokes a strong feeling through its unique mixture of imagery. Shiva also has a particular interest in architecture, incorporating into the piece geometrical shapes that pervade buildings like Persian mosques and Mona Vale’s Bahá’í Temple.
Many of Shiva’s artworks are conceptualised first in the studio she has set up in her Quakers Hill home. The desk she works at is lined with an extensive array of pencils, and hanging overhead are notable inspirations such as the Mona Vale Bahá’í Temple and rainy streets seen through windows drenched with droplets.
Art has always been a true method of expression for Shiva: “I always think to myself, that I always could talk with my art in the way that I could not talk with words. Art is some instrument, some way you can talk about something you can’t say in your words.”
One project that Shiva will express her feelings through is an artistic commemoration of ten Bahá’í women who were killed 40 years ago in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. “They were executed because of their belief in improving the community and society. The 18th of June is the memorial day, and the Bahá’í community asks people around the world to create art to remember them by,” she says. In addition to being a talented visual artist, Shiva is also a classical Persian dancer, and is looking to create video clips that incorporate both painting and dance into a piece that “will help to remember them.”
Shiva’s ability to navigate her thoughts through art is extremely impressive and important, and she is pleased to be able to use the skills she learnt at TAFE in her work. “In music, singing, media or visual arts, you have to be the very best of yourself. And if you work with your heart and soul, you can find your place,” she says. Now able to fulfil her lifelong dreams, Shiva has found hers.
Follow Shiva on Instagram to stay up to date with her work: www.instagram.com/shivart._/