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Student collaborates with artists internationally to create Persian-based zine

Fourth-year English student Donna Ghassemi (right) wanted to create a space for Persian artists and writers to celebrate their heritage, so she helped create “Dooneh.” The zine incorporates works from people around the world, such as those of second-year physiological science student Arta Kasaeian (left), who submitted her art for the July edition of the zine. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)

By Cameron Vernali

Sept. 30, 2019 10:19 p.m.

When Donna Ghassemi wanted to create a Persian-based zine, she didn’t limit herself to Los Angeles – she asked people around the world.

What began as asking childhood friends for help has spanned into asking Persian creators all over to contribute toDooneh,” a recently created zine for Persian writers and artists in which they can present their work. Ghassemi, a fourth-year English student, runs the zine with editors from multiple countries, and said they plan on following up their first edition – which released in July – with another edition, which they will begin planning throughout October.

Ghassemi said she hopes the space will draw submissions from Persian artists around the world as they are united by their common backgrounds and appreciation for their cultures.

“I got the inspiration for the name (‘Dooneh’) from the … phrase ‘dooneye anar,’ which means pomegranate seed,” Ghassemi said. “I feel like each submission we receive will be a piece of this grander experience. … We all come from the same fruit, but we are still our own individuals within it.”

[RELATED: Fashion show raises funds for cancer research, features local Persian designers]

Ghassemi had been thinking of this idea for about a year before approaching her childhood friends all over the world – in Amsterdam, Canada and New Zealand – to help create the zine, she said. Though “Dooneh” is likely not the first Persian-focused zine, she said she could not find any herself and wanted to create a space for other Persian creators. But she said creating an art-based zine, when there isn’t one before her, is intimidating at times.

“I know that the payoff will be good once everything comes together and people start to bond over our shared experiences, but for now I feel I’m trying to take on this big task,” she said.

The presence of art in Persian culture is also why a zine for art made by Persian individuals is necessary, Ghassemi said. The continual appreciation of writers and poets emphasize how Persian culture is involved with the arts; for example, poet Hafiz’s writings are used as a form of fortune-telling, and his book of poems are often seen on the tables set up for Persian New Year, she said. Persian art seeps into almost all aspects of Persian culture, said “Dooneh” editor Tina Bahrevar.

“It’s become very evident to a lot of (Persian) kids, especially our generation, that we want to see (art),” Bahrevar said.

Second-year physiological science student Arta Kasaeian is involved in Persian-inspired arts and submitted pencil- and chalk-based drawings to the zine. She usually incorporates the sky, the sun or water into a person, she said, and also draws on elements of her Persian background such as memories of her culture.

Her submission for “Dooneh” was inspired by an old lamp her family had that featured a Persian woman with big eyes and a unibrow, with the sun emanating from her. Kasaeian was inspired by the woman’s traditional Persian feminine features – such as thick, connected eyebrows, hooded eyes and black hair under a colorful scarf – and the color palette, which included dark red colors, she said.

“Through my childhood, it was a respite from the Western beauty standards I saw in cartoons,” Kasaeian said. “I took that (inspiration) and gave it my own style. … (I) turned it into what I saw myself as in that lady.”


To maximize the art that is contributed, the zine will be more simplistic, Bahrevar said. Being in charge of design and page layout for the zine, Bahrevar said it is leaning toward a more minimalistic design to help showcase the art of the Persian contributors.

Regardless of their specific looks, the zine contributions shed light on the various Persian experiences, even those outside the United States, Bahrevar said. Currently attending the University of Auckland, Bahrevar said the international experiences show broader experiences of Persian culture.

Expanding the zine internationally is beneficial because Persians immigrate a lot, she said. She added that the ability to see Persian culture when away from Iran can help others feel like they are not so far away after all.

“You can go to any country and find someone who is Persian,” Bahrevar said. “If … (someone) sees someone else write about their (Persian) experience … (out of Iran), it can … make them feel less far away from home and their true culture.”

Ultimately, Ghassemi hopes “Dooneh” adds to the Persian community at UCLA as a way for people in the community to feature their own voices and appreciate the voices of others. Kasaeian, who said she is elated by the presence of other Iranian-based culture clubs on campus, welcomes this space for artistry.

“You have some (older Persian immigrants) to fall back on, who know what you’ve been going through,” Kasaeian said. “I feel like expanding that to the arts is a big step in making it a more welcome space for new immigrant students that may be coming into UCLA.”

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Cameron Vernali
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