Fact check: 2014 artwork falsely linked to anti-hijab agitation in Iran

An image of hair tied to a pole has gone viral on social media with the claim it shows a flag created by women who cut their hair as a symbol of defiance against Iran’s draconian dress code

An image of hair tied to a pole has gone viral on social media with the claim it shows a flag created by women who cut their hair as a symbol of defiance against Iran’s draconian dress code

“The most powerful image in the world has come out of Iran,” reads a Facebook post while describing the image of the flag, which began circulating following protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini . Ms Amini died after being detained by Iran’s “morality police” for failing to wear the hijab properly, violating the country’s dress code.

The claim was also shared by prominent figures.

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei shared a link to a First post article featuring the image with the title “Flag of Honour: Iranian women hoist their cropped hair on a stick as the most powerful symbol of dissent”.

Writer Taslima Nasreen also shared a similar post.

Mahsa Amini’s death sparked a wave of protests, to which the Iranian regime responded with a deadly crackdown. Protesters burned hijabs in public, cut their hair and chanted “death to the dictator” as acts of defiance against draconian laws that severely restrict women’s rights.

But The Hindu found that the symbolic “hair flag” is not what it was designed to be.

A reverse image search revealed it to be a work by visual artist Edith Dekyndt.

Screenshot from a video of the work, available on Edith Dekyndt's official website.

Screenshot from a video of the work, available on Edith Dekyndt’s official website.

We also contacted spokespersons for various art galleries representing Edith, who confirmed that the flag was part of one of her art installations.

“The photo with the flag made of hair used by social media for the protests in Iran is indeed an image taken from a video installation by Belgian artist Edith Dekyndt. The video installation is called “Ombre Indigène Part 2 (Ile de la Martinique)” made in 2014. What is used on social networks is only an excerpt of his work, “said Magali Wyns, holder- word of the Greta Meert Gallery, Belgium.

Jonas Kriszeleit, director of the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Germany, gave the following official description of the work:

“A flag made of human hair was planted in the ground and filmed on top of rocks on the Diamant coast, in Martinique. There, precisely, on the night of April 8, 1830, a clandestine slave ship carrying a hundred African captives ran aground on the rocks before being completely destroyed. Edouard Glissant was buried not far away, in the small town of Le Diamant. Originally from this island, this author is at the origin of the notions of “everyone” and “creolization”, the latter being akin to a “mixing that generates unpredictability”.

The Karin Günther Gallery in Germany also confirmed the same.

Taking up the claim, French public service broadcaster art ran a segment to put it into context.

“…Yet this picture was not taken in Iran in the current context of revolt, but in Martinique in 2014. It is taken from a video by Belgian artist Edith Dekyndt who filmed this flag made of hair Installed on the rocks of the Diamant coast on the island of Martinique. According to the catalogs accompanying this work, it symbolizes the tragedy of a boat completely destroyed at this place and which transported a hundred African slaves in 1830 , as well as a tribute to the Martinican philosopher Edouard Glissant.

While many share the flag’s image as a symbol of anti-government agitation in Iran, the claim that it was made with protesters’ hair is false.

Fact check: False

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