Roshi Roozbehani for saving the world with art, empowering women and developing her own visual language

Iran is currently experiencing a social upheaval. Following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after being detained by Iran’s morality police, the country responded with protests in which women burned their hijabs and cut their hair, as well as joint strike action across the country. These protests led to expressions of solidarity around the world as people marched in support of Iranian women, demanding an end to restrictions on their human rights.

For illustrator Roshi Rouzebhani, who was born and raised in Tehran before immigrating to the UK in 2011, the events caused very mixed feelings. “As an Iranian woman, I know the daily struggle you face living under a patriarchal dictatorship,” she tells Creative Boom.

Women in Iran protest after the death of Mahsa Amini

Roshi moved from Iran in 2011

“I also know the courage it takes to be on the street without a hijab and fight for your rights while the regime can arrest you or even kill you. I admire and am proud of the courage and strength of my people. I’m angry, sad and scared at the same time, but hopeful!”

To scream for freedom with his art, Roshi creates illustrations that pay tribute to the protesters. She was especially motivated to add her voice to the movement after the Internet shutdown in Iran. “I want to be the voice of the brave women of Iran and repeat what they are chanting in the streets, which is ‘Zan, Zendegi, Azadi’, which means ‘Women, Life, Freedom,'” she explains.

“In my illustrations I try to celebrate the struggle of my people and show my solidarity. I try to use the power of illustration to convey their messages directly so that anyone can understand them without the need for translation.

“I’m glad that so far – apart from the illustrations I’ve created for my social media or posters to be used in protests around the world – I’ve had the chance to collaborate with The Guardian Weekly, New Yorker and Die Zeit to raise the voice of Iranian women in search of freedom.

Her artistic style was perfected through editorial illustration

Her artistic style was perfected through editorial illustration

Roshi is angry, scared and full of hope for the future

Roshi is angry, scared and full of hope for the future

Roshi believes that art can change the world

Roshi believes that art can change the world

As she suggests, Roshi’s ability to create illustrations that penetrate and connect without the need for language was honed through her work as an editorial illustrator. Having created artwork for clients such as BBC 100 Women and The Washington Post to name a few, she has crafted a unique and striking visual approach to convey her message.

However, this style is not only sharpened thanks to her illustration commissions. After studying IT and moving to the UK with her husband in 2011, Roshi faced cultural and language barriers in her daily life. “I decided to develop my own visual language, a language that everyone could understand, to reflect my internal state of how I see the world as an Iranian immigrant woman,” she reveals.

“Since then I have been constantly developing my visual language and currently use digital illustration to express my ideas. I am passionate about gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the heart of my work. I also like to work on social or mental issues.”

Roshi's works cross cultures and language barriers

Roshi’s works cross cultures and language barriers

Roshi's self-published book praises Iranian women from all walks of life

Roshi’s self-published book praises Iranian women from all walks of life

Longtime readers of Creative Boom will recall that this piece includes her self-published book, 50 Inspiring Iranian Women. As its name suggests, this book consists of portrait illustrations and mini-biographies of 50 Iranian women from all walks of life that “highlight their achievements despite all the limitations and discrimination they face.”

And despite her mixed feelings about the current state of Iran, Roshi remains optimistic that art and her illustrations play an important role in the discussion. According to her, art can be a positive, life-changing force. “I believe that art has the power to change people to save the world! I think art has the power to influence people’s perspectives and beliefs to influence their actions.”

She adds: “Art has this unique ability to transcend nation states. Artists can deliver powerful messages in a direct and immediate way, so change can happen every day, piece by piece!”

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