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Apocalyptic Playland

November 29 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

The Royal Ontario Museum, the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Institute of Iranian Studies, University of Toronto, jointly present

Apocalyptic Playland:The Works of Shiva Ahmadi

 Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 1-2 p.m.

Zoom Meeting Registration:


This Zoom program will feature a 20-minute discussion followed by a live audience Q&A.

Questions may be sent in advance to programs@rom.on.ca.

Please indicate the “ROM Connects November 29, 2023, Q&A” in the subject line.

All registrants will be emailed a link to access the program 24 to 48 hours in advance.

“My work addresses corruption and power as the reason for movement, and pain and suffering that results from detachment and transition.”  —Shiva Ahmadi

Learn more about the carefully illustrated worlds of celebrated artist Shiva Ahmadi, one of the featured artists in the exhibition Being & Belonging. In this illustrated talk, Ahmadi shares deep insight into her personal and professional histories, and how they filter through and are expressed in her creative work.  A moderated Q&A hosted by Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, with participation by exhibition curator Fahmida Suleman, will follow the presentation.


Shiva Ahmadi‘s works cover a broad diversity of media, including watercolour painting, sculpture, and video animation. Having come of age in the tumultuous years following the Iranian Revolution, Ahmadi moved to the United States in 1998 and has been based in California since 2015. Borrowing from the artistic traditions of Iran and the Middle East, she critically examines global political tensions and social concerns to create striking, provocative, and powerful creations.

As part of Being and Belonging, Shiva Ahmadi’s animation, Ascend (2017), begins as a utopian scene, with monkeys playfully popping bubbles by a pond. Slowly the bubbles transform into grenades and bombs, and the lifeless body of a boy washes up on the shore. Ahmadi describes her video as a metaphor for the plight of many Syrians forced to flee their homes for safety, only to face danger and uncertainty as refugees. Ahmadi says, “While the story is about Syrian refugees, it speaks to a universal condition, one that belongs to all of us, not just a specific demographic.”

Fahmida Suleman is Curator of the Islamic World collection at ROM, where she was lead curator on the recent ROM-original exhibition Unmasking the Pandemic: From Personal Protection to Personal Expression (2021), as well as the current exhibition Being and Belonging. Formerly the Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East at the British Museum (London, UK), her publications include Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia: The Fabric of Life (2017), and most recently the companion volume to Being and Belonging: Contemporary Women Artists from the Islamic World and Beyond (2023).


Mohamad Tavakoli is Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, where he serves as the Inaugural Director of the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Institute of Iranian Studies. From 2002-12, he served as the editor of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, a Duke University Press journal, and has served on the editorial board of Iranian Studies, the journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies. The author of many books and articles, he has been the recipient of visiting fellowships at Oxford and Harvard universities.


November 29
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST