‘On Patronage’ is a small (miniature –if you will!) visual bonbon. In its bite-sized way it deals with patronage of the artist, as represented in Hafiz’s time and in my own. Both of us needed one, in other words!
In 14th century Persia the poet performed at the court of the ruler, his patron and protector. The poet’s place here was prestigious but also part of the regular entertainment that included wine, food, dancers and music. The setting was elaborate and formal.
The imagery that references this world can be found in miniature paintings. The ones I use in this piece are not Persian. Though directly influenced by this style, they are from the Deccan region –the place in India my father was from. By choosing images from this region I am drawing attention to the journeys that Persian culture in its art and poetry took east towards India, influencing Muslim cultures like that of the Moghuls and the Deccan Muslim rulers. These images are part of the cultural heritage that informs what I imagine the world Hafiz performed in might look like. Hafiz did indeed have to perform –I tried to bring out here some of this performative quality (hence the laugh-tracks) in this quest to acknowledge the artifice and formality that were the societal background of much of Hafiz’s vital and alive verses.
And in cutting out the miniatures (originally miniatures were part of private manuscript collections, not at all public wall-mounted art) and placing them outside (in a wooded area I lived in during part of the filming of this project), I am continuing the journeying that this miniature tradition has taken, but ‘releasing’ it from a bound association. On a physical level, my photocopies move now with the wind outside. I play with them while hopefully paying respect to the tradition, as I do with slight changes to Elizabeth H. Gray’s translation to purposefully ‘ham up’ this ghazal.
In Hafiz’s ending verses he sometimes names one of the rulers whose patronage he relied on in his lifetime. As a reference to that convention, with a wink and gratitude, at the end I also thank my patron for this project, the Creative Work Fund.