International Animation Day 2021 Poster Press Release

Interview with Maryam Mohajer (poster designer)

– by Bob Swieringa

Maryam Mohajer’s Image of Hope, Imagination and Culture

In the lower corner, the child draws with chalk on a brick wall. Lines of color swirl across the wall, as the girl draws a simple phoenix, wings spread. But the colors burst from the bricks, spreading and curling, becoming the long intricate flowing tail feathers of the gorgeous Phoenix, rising colorfully across the page, into the air, free of the wall and its bricks.

This is what catches my eye as I view Maryam Mohajer’s poster for International Animation Day 2021. The colors and shapes move across the space, leading the eye to the ASIFA logo at the top.

“All over the world, we’re going through hard times…” Maryam said. “I wanted a sense of hope in my work; a miracle, a touch of magic even.” The Phoenix, here, embodies that spirit, sharing it with the viewer. “Phoenix is a beautiful creature, presenting magic and hope in Persian culture.” The hope, then extends to us and that link to culture is explicit here, as Maryam took the phoenix from an old Persian illustration by Muhammad Zaman ibn Haji Yusuf, the celebrated Persian artist (active 1670-1700).

The children in the poster, drawing the Phoenix into being, contribute to the message Maryam builds with the images. “I’ve always been interested in working with children. I like the raw, honest, non-biased attitude that they bring with them and their sense of hope,” Maryam said. And with hope flies imagination – “Most importantly their powerful, unlimited imagination always fascinates me,” she adds. “It’s a bit like animation itself in the sense that anything – and I mean anything – is possible.”

Standing out in the poster as well is the font announcing International Animation Day. Maryam has said that she created the font based on the Persian Calligraphy “Nastaliq.” The lines of the text curl and move mirroring the feathers of the Phoenix’s tail. “Recently I’ve been experimenting with text, not only as a tool to represent a concept but also as an aesthetic form. When you’re brought up with a certain language, it’s so easy to think of the text only as means of communication, but when you look at it from a different point of view, you can see it’s great potential as a visual form. It also adds a subtle touch of Persian identity to the work.”

Maryam did not begin her exploration of art directly in animation, but came to it from painting, as her first BA in Iran. “I was told that my painting carried too much of a narrative and that it was leaning towards illustration,” so she continued her studies in the UK, focusing on illustration and animation. “Once I tried my first animation project, which was a walk cycle, it was clear to me that I did not want to do anything else.”

“There’s so much life in animation,” she added. “The idea of creating a whole universe that moves, lives and breathes is just magical to me. Nothing compares to it.”