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Cultural Embassy

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Lloyd Hotel room 202 was recently transformed into the 'Migration room' by an Iranian design trio. Hida Kasei (designer), Amir Komeilizadeh (designer) and Mohammad Reza Amiri (calligrapher) share a keen sense of migration issues and especially what it means to re-define the notion of 'home'. They were inspired by the ancient traditions of weaving and poetry in the transformation of this room. Part of this project was a truly awe-inspiring shower installation. The 'Migration room' officially opened during the Migration Festival at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy (May 29, 2016).

The table symbolises the art of poetry. It is designed and made for a poet - a perfect table to sit and write - with extra storage for notes and books. Designed by Amir and made in collaboration with the Irish designer Jeff McDowell. It's made to fit the space and give it extra warmth. The calligraphy on the shutters refers to an open book, formed by the letter “B” in Persian, mirrored.

What caused you to flee?

As I grew older I became critical towards women's rights in Iran; there are no equal rights for women. After the rising against the election in 2009 the situation changed so I had to leave the country with my sister. I came to Netherlands in June 2011.

What did your life look like in Iran? Were you already involved in art or design?

Hida: I grew up in Tehran and had a good social and family life. I always wanted to do something to enrich my freedom, but everybody knows being active in politics in Iran will cost you a lot of things. I have been interested in art since my 12th birthday, mostly in architecture. I studied architecture and right after that I started to work for an interior design company, making computer drawings. I was really into interior design which is forbidden to study at university, so I signed up – together with Amir – for an interior design course at a private university. We both worked in different interior design companies.

How did it go building up a new life in the Netherlands? 

The first year in the Netherlands was not so much fun. I missed my family, my love, and my work. I was studying Dutch for two and a half year. You know this is the situation; you can never go back to your home country and you don’t know what lies ahead of you. I kept asking myself, should I start doing art projects again and try to find myself through art, or should I start doing something totally different. I did not have enough confidence which was very scary for me. Now I feel very comfortable here. The system here gives you the opportunity to find yourself and to do what you want. When I just came here I thought people would ignore me, because I am from the Middle East. Fortunately that did not happen and now we can do projects like the project we did in the Lloyd Hotel.

Where do you call home?

For me Groningen is my home now. I think wherever you feel comfortable and safe you can call home. Whether it is the country in which you are born or another place.

What brings you to Amsterdam?

Hida: In October 2015 we received an email from the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF), a foundation which supports refugees to study further in The Netherlands, to say that The Refugee Company was looking for designers. Amir and I sent our work immediately and were selected for a design project for We Fashion. After this project we continued working with The Refugee Company in Amsterdam. On the opening of the Student Hotel – we did the artistic part of the opening – we met students of the Reinwardt Academy who asked us to work with them for the Migration event at Lloyd Hotel.

What is the very last thing you photographed?

Hida: We had an assignment from school to ‘show the world like a stage,’ which we are still developing. Amir and I made masks from aluminium foil and we took photographs wearing the masks, symbolising how people are hiding their real face from each other. Yet, if you show your real face or your real character, even if it is not a nice face or a nice character, people will like it more, because it is real. So the message behind the photos is: stop hiding yourself.

Interview by Kim van Beek