Arts & Entertainment

Art as therapy and outreach tool against Covid-19

By Marina Villén

Tehran, May 19 (efe-epa).- Doctors depicted as soldiers on the battlefront alongside more intimate images of them missing their families or caring for the sick are some of the tributes to medics by Iranian artist Alireza Pakdel.

Pakdel has produced around 80 illustrations since the Covid-19 crisis erupted in Iran in late February.

His work, which is shared on his Instagram account @alirezapakdel_artist, has reached a worldwide audience and has earned him countless thanks.

“The most interesting thing that happened after the publication of my works on social media was receiving messages from countries affected by the coronavirus such as Spain, Italy, China and Brazil, who have recognised me as part of the medical team and asked me to continue on this path,” he tells Efe.

He says several doctors and nurses have told him he has faithfully captured “the situation and its difficulties” in “an understandable way for everyone”.

The illustrator and caricaturist, who has been regularly published in the press and won several national and international awards, says the language of art is “very influential”.

“You say something with words but people don’t understand it,” he adds during a telephone interview from his home in Mashad, northeast Iran.

“But when they see it in the contact of art I think they understand it much better.”

Pakdel has spent lockdown in his house with his partner and used the time to capture the crisis and try to help Iranian people understand what has been happening.

“I decided to use the language of art and transmit some concepts through my works such as the danger of the coronavirus and the safety and hygiene guidelines that must be respected,” he says.

Iran was a former hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic and authorities have reported around 7,000 deaths and 120,000 infections.

Pakdel produced three of four works on this theme and says that after the sixth piece his art began to have a “global dimension”.

He started to include advice from health workers on how to deal with “more concrete objectives”, such as travel restrictions, staying at home and wearing masks.

He also included tributes to medics, emergency service workers and volunteers, such as an old woman sewing masks at home.

He says he tried not to focus on any mistakes made by citizens or authorities but to “transmit hope” and he thinks this is what gave his art a worldwide significance.

“I think that art in the psychological aspect can work as a therapy,” he adds.

“I also worked in transmitting hope to those who were infected in my works to tell them that they are going to be cured and that gave them a good feeling.”

His illustrations do not have a political element but include numerous references to Iranian culture.

Pakdel has been selected among the winners in a contest organised in Iran under the title “We will defeat the coronavirus”.

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