"Now that my country is fighting for freedom, I cannot create art that gives meaning other than freedom.If I want to design art for freedom, it is not right to make money from it."
Our small, small team is really enjoying the part of 32 Nations where we get to find designers from all over the world - Serbia to Morocco to Ecuador, America to Japan to Saudi Arabia.
Finding the artists is a challenge; we are primarily using word-of-mouth, and Behance. Paying the directly into their bank accounts is even more so - although Paypal and Western Union with digital wallets have made it easier.
Communicating with the artists on Instagram, by email, or in our small Slack group is a joy.
Each of the artists have brought a positivity and optimism to their art. They take pride in their visual storytelling, but are open and generous in sharing their design and their processes.
The most heartwrenching interaction we've shared with a designer is with a talented illustrator we found in Iran. Initially, she was excited to be one of our first 6 designers when we started talking to here in early October.
But given the protests and tragedy taking place in Iran, she decided not to participate in good conscience.
She wrote, "Our country is not in a good situation.The tyrannical government kills people because of protests and Many families are in mourning.We agree that our football team should be removed from the World Cup.
Now that my country is fighting for freedom, I cannot create art that gives meaning other than freedom.If I want to design art for freedom, it is not right to make money from it."
That was several weeks ago. We have kept in touch weekly, mostly to check in and see if she and her family are okay. Nationwide protests have now been going for over two months since the death of Mahsa Amini, starting with protests over hijab law and expanding to be a moving rebellion of more than 1200 protests led by women who deserve a better way of life; she has shared updates about her personal safety, and sadness, and shared some of the art she has made for social channels.
The death of a 9 year old child last week- Kian Parfalak, thought to be the youngest victim of the tyrannical response to the protests - were especially devastating for her as well as other Iranian friends who are sharing stories and opportunities to support change. Here is a Guardian story about this tragedy.
The designer is hopeful that UNICEF and other organizations will become more involved. Yesterday, the captain of the Iran national team spoke about the tragedies in their homeland (here is another Guardian story.) Ehsan Hajsafi and all of the players are in the difficult position of balancing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the World Cup, with carefully speaking of the protests and tragedy.
“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said. “We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we must not respect them."
For the players, artists and people of Iran, our hope is that their moment in the spotlight at the World Cup can draw attention and support to the devastation happening in Iran.