The Persian Culture Society celebrates and preserves Iranian culture – The Cavalier Daily

As graduates of the class of 2022, they leave behind their own world within the University. One of these worlds is that of the University Persian Culture Society. The student group celebrates Iranian culture, showcasing Iranian arts, music, dance and fashion.

PCS provides a community for students with strong ties to Iranian culture, while for other students the club is an opportunity to reconnect with their Iranian heritage. Darian Kaviani, president of the PCS and a fourth-year college student, is the son of Iranian immigrants.

“Both of my parents came to the United States after the revolution,” Kaviani said. “And when they arrived, obviously none of them really spoke much English, so their community became all Iranians around them.”

Ariana Gueranmayeh, a fourth-year college student and vice president of PCS, shares a similar story.

“My grandparents immigrated here after the 1979 Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah,” Gueranmayeh said. “That’s when my grandparents came with my mother and her three siblings, sort of all of them came here to the United States just to ask for political asylum after what was happening in Iran. So, they basically started their life here.

PCS members share a variety of different ties to Iranian culture. Several club members were born and raised in Iran, while others are further removed from Iranian culture.

“It’s a cool dynamic to have these people who are Iranian, but don’t really speak or know the culture,” Kaviani said. “People like Ariana and I who grew up here and are kind of between two worlds.”

One of the club’s biggest events is the annual Iranian New Year’s Nowruz celebration. Over three hundred people attended this year’s celebration in April. The event was dynamic and lively, with Iranian music, dance, food and fashion. The parents and grandparents of many students were present.

Shirin Nariman came to the event to support her daughter, Neikey Panah, a third-year commerce student.

“I am Iranian, I moved here 36 years ago,” Nariman said. “I tried to raise my children to learn about their Persian origins, history and culture.”

Nariman immigrated to the United States in 1986 and said she decided to leave because of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The popular uprising led to the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“I was anti-Iranian regime,” Nariman said. “So I was in prison for two years. And then when I was released, I decided to leave Iran – Iran was no longer safe for me.

Nariman attended George Mason University, where she met her husband in a group of Iranian students. Today, Nariman is happy that her daughter Neikey has embraced Iranian culture through PCS.

“Now she’s very involved in the Persian club, which for us is fantastic, because we didn’t expect that,” Nariman said. “But U.Va. gave him the opportunity to explore his own culture with other children from the same background.

One of the ways PCS members explore this heritage is through the Iranian language of Farsi, which many students grow up speaking Farsi at home.

“Being bilingual, coming to U.Va. and meeting other Persians who spoke Farsi… it was just kind of funny,” Gueranmayeh said. “I remember in my early years we would just throw it into conversations…just to poke fun…that language aspect adds another sense of community.”

Many PCS students who did not grow up speaking Farsi attend classes in the language offered by the university. Mashad Mohit, a lecturer in Middle Eastern and South Asian languages ​​and cultures, was honored at the Nowruz event and played a particularly prominent role in the university’s Farsi curriculum.

“So we have a number of people just learning Farsi or getting to know the traditions,” Kaviani said. “And they’re really passionate about it, which was really exciting to see the new kids getting into it as much as we are.”

PCS also preserves Iranian culture musically. Kaviani teaches club members how to play Daf, a traditional Iranian drum.

“When I got to college, I had never taken up drumming,” Kaviani said. “And we had a kid who was really good at it and he decided to start teaching the club how to play that drum and here we are like two generations later the person who originally brought it to the club has since left a little but we still teach based on what he taught us.

Over the years, PCS has developed its own history and its own sense of belonging to the University. Gueranmayeh says the Iranian clothes she wears during PCS performances have helped foster a sense of shared tradition among the students.

“Girls wearing red skirts and black shirts – there were generations of PCS members who wore that,” Gueranmayeh said. “It’s kind of fun to see things passed on.”

Like many bands on Grounds, PCS have struggled to keep club traditions alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s event was the first in-person celebration of Nowruz since the spring of 2019, meaning fourth-year students were the only members to have ever attended. This placed fourth-year students with the added responsibility of passing on Nowruz traditions before graduating.

“It was one of our toughest years, with all the new students who had never been to Nowruz before,” Kaviani said.

However, Kaviani and Gueranmayeh remain hopeful. With a successful Nowruz event, PCS opens a new chapter. As Kaviani and Gaueranmayeh graduate this spring, they have both left lasting legacies for future generations of PCS students.

“I hope we can share our knowledge with them,” Kaviani said. “So they can keep doing something like that down the road…and grow the club and take it to places that Ariana and I haven’t even thought of yet.”

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