“The writer is someone who plays with his mother’s body”: Notes on Selina Ershadi and Azita Chegini’s Amator

Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington-based writer, Dilohana Lekamge, discusses Selina Ershadi and Azita Chegini's film Amator.

Date 2 FEBRUARY 2021 Words Dilohana Lekamge Imagery Stills from Selina Ershadi and Azita Chegini’s film, Amator, 2019

selina ershadi

Selina Ershadi (born in Tehran) is an artist and writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand whose visual practice is predominantly focused on the production of moving-image works that are centred around the act of storytelling.

In Persian storytelling the phrase ‘yeki bood, yeki nabood’ loosely translates to ‘one was, one was not’. This phrase encapsulates the foundations from which Ershadi begins her creative process. She embraces amateurship, absence and the imperfect. Revelling in the gaps within poetry and experimental film that create non-linear forms and celebrate the forever evolving nature of stories passed through generations.

Quoting Roland Barthes posing that “The writer is someone who plays with his mother’s body,” she contemplates this obscure passage through a diasporic lens, considering ‘mother’ as an expanded term that can refer to a motherland or mother tongue. Her moving-image work Amator borrows it’s title from Maya Deren’s essay Amateur Versus Professional, where Deren traces the etymology of the word amateur to the latin ‘amator’, meaning ‘lover’.

First shown at RM Gallery and Project Space and later screened at May Fair Art Fair, the film is a collaboration between the artist and her mother, Azita Chegini, where she is both the cameraperson and a central character.

Ershadi continuously balances between closeness and distance, as she places the camera lens on these intimate relationships and considers how to tell one’s own story — a story that is entangled with many others. Her work leans into a rich tradition of experimental filmmaking that dissolves categories between documentary and fiction, writing and film, reality and dreams.

As a child her family were sent letters and home videos from her relatives in Iran. The nature of her work is accumulative in many ways. Her engagement with this familial material and continuous pursuit of creating responses to that material positions Ershadi as one of a long line of storytellers, replying to each other through a myriad of forms.

selina ershadi
selina ershadi
selina ershadi

Text first published in our sibling magazine, Index, Issue Nº01 (September 2020) — BUY IT HERE NOW.