A garlic bulb, a platter of sprouts, a pot of hyacinth flowers, a cup of vinegar, dried oleaster fruit, sweet wheat
pudding, sumac, and red apples. Though surrealistically unrelated to most people, for millions who celebrate
Norouz¹, these elements, alongside some beautifully painted hard-boiled eggs, a mirror, a few lit candles, and a
goldfish swimming in a bowl, symbolize the arrival of the spring and the year’s most joyous celebration.
Throughout my time in Iran, I was satisfied with the official definition of 7-Sin: “A series of elements, each
symbolizing an important aspect of life (health, wealth, love, beauty and re-birth, to name a few) and all starting
with the letter “س” (pronounced “sin”, the equivalent of the letter “S” in English)”. There, 7-Sin was just a
code-word for a collective emotion toward a deeply-rooted tradition and any attempt to define it seemed
redundant at best.
It was only in Canada, where I had to explain the meaning of 7-Sin to those who did not share any of my
feelings toward this peculiar collection of strange and familiar elements, that I realized the definition I knew,
even with its exotic and colourful entourage, was agonizingly powerless to convey the slightest of meanings.
After all, there was nothing, neither in the letter “Sin” nor in the number “7” that was intrinsically related to
My search to find an alternative non-verbal depiction resulted in disappointment. This was not unexpected from
a culture that relies so heavily on words and specifically on poetry for self-expression; a fact that is attested to
by the bold presence of a poetry book or two on almost every 7-Sin table. Nonetheless, the pictorial record of 7-
Sin even disappoints the least of expectations. Apart from a few delightful works of “Persian miniatures”, I
found nothing but pictures of isolated, though beautifully decorated, 7-Sin tables with no sign of human activity
anywhere near: too solemn; too emotionless; or alternatively, the same sombre setting with rather
uncomfortable-looking family members posing at the table, unsmiling, or worse, faking smiles.
This collection is my attempt at a photographic translation. First to deconstruct this colourful ensemble into
simple elements; stripped of their historic weight and their symbolic heft, and then, to reassemble the 7-Sin
table. Not as a collection of elements, linked through a phonological rule, but as a series of emotions connected
through a persistent childish playfulness which, to me, is the very essence of 7-Sin. Childish, maybe because
childhood was the time when this table felt the most magical; and playful, perhaps to mask the nostalgia that
every momentous, memorable and repeating event – such as Norouz – would inevitably emanate: a melancholia
for all things that are no longer there; a feeling that I believe is universal.