By Kamiar Behrang
Tintin, Milou (also known as Snowy) and their famous comic-strip companions have turned up in Iran.
The globetrotting young reporter and his faithful pup may have had as many as 24 adventures around the world, but so far they had never made it to Iran. Now, thanks to the ingenuity of Kasra Razmkhah, they have travelled all over Iran, savored roast chicken and pomegranates, visited sites ranging from Tehran University to Golestan Palace, and even taken a souvenir snap with Parviz Tanavoli’s ‘Nought’ (Heech) sculpture.
It all started with a creative project. Razmkhah – a young Iranian with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from a U.K. university – placed effigies of Tintin, Milou, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, Dupond and Dupont (aka Thomson & Thompson) around different parts of Tehran and photographed them.
In an interview, Razmkhah explained that although his academic field was chemistry, he had a special interest in art and tourism. He was, in fact, a specialist in spectrography, a type of photography that measures the properties of light.
“Tintin is one of my favorite childhood cartoon characters, and I have many great memories of the comic books and cartoon strips,” he said. “On a research trip to Denmark last year, I happened upon a Tintin figurine in a shop. It instantly brought back childhood memories. The first photo I took of it was in a lab where I was working at the time. I wanted to show my friends what my working environment looked like. The reaction of my Facebook friends to the image gave me the idea that whenever I stopped to take a photo, I could place Tintin in the frame, then choose a topic and add a visual storyline.”
“From that point on, Tintin began accompanying me on my many journeys. I have photos of him in Denmark, England, the States, Malaysia and Iran.”
Razmkhah later realized that many people around the world had done the same thing, but that “the Iranian version had never been seen before.”
“I am more interested in cultural markers such as architectural landmarks: I’ve tried to place Tintin in recognizable places in a given area,” Razmkhah explained. “For Iranian viewers, photos of Tintin in Iran not only bring back sweet childhood memories, but they can also rekindle memories of a specific region. For non-Iranian viewers, on the other hand, they can be a way to showcase Iranian tourist attractions.”
Razmkhah, who lived in the UK for many years, noted: “Living in Britain allowed me to meet more people with different tastes and styles. Now, most of the photos I take are also interesting to non-Iranians. As a Western cartoon character in an Eastern setting such as Iran, Tintin can have many wondrous tales to tell.”
As an example of an unusual Tintin tale, he mentioned a photo of the cartoon character standing in a dish of shucked pomegranates: “In some places where people are not too familiar with pomegranates, or where they’re too expensive to buy, Tintin is photographed in a bowl of red Iranian pomegranates. This image takes on a very special meaning for Iranians; to them, Tintin and pomegranates evoke the Iranian Festival of the winter solstice, and the nostalgic poem ‘A Hundred Pieces of Rubies.’ In the same spirit, I think that Tintin sitting next to a colorful and decorative Persian carpet can be an eye-catching vision.”
Tintin’s adventures have been translated into 70 languages, and were first published in Iran in 1971, where dubbed cartoons were broadcast as part of children’s programs on Iranian national TV. Following the 1979 revolution, translation and publication of the books was stopped, though years later, photocopied editions could be found for sale in the marketplace.
In 2001, edits were made to the narrative and to certain images, resulting in the publication of a new series which finally became available for sale in Iran. A number of cartoons whose plots were changed during the dubbing process were also shown on TV once again. In those particular episodes, Captain Haddock never gets drunk, and Bianca Castafiore never sings.
“I haven’t had any specific reactions from people in Iran while I’m taking the photos,” said Razmkhah. “Sometimes they smile as they walk by. But outside Iran, there has been many an occasion where I have actually been photographed (by someone else) while I myself am taking the shot. On social media, on the other hand, Iranian subscribers have expressed astonishment, in different ways, at Tintin’s presence in Iran.”
The Adventures of Tintin and Snowy in Farsi
Tintin is an internationally well-known character famous across the generations. In 2011, a 3D motion-capture computer-animation feature film entitled “The Adventures of Tintin” was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.