The Great Exhibition or World's Fair is one of the most important mega events in the world. It takes place once in five years. It was the first in a series of the expo in Hyde Park, London, in 1851.

It is a platform for displaying social, economic, scientific, and cultural achievements of participating countries and their future plans. Iran’s first participation in the expo, whose theme was ‘Industry for all Nations’ dates back to 1851.

Iran Daily conducted an interview with Mahdi Afzali, the director of Iran's Institute for Development of Contemporary Arts, to know about the expo, the country’s presence in the previous editions and plans for the upcoming 2020 expo.

The full text of the interview follows:

IRAN DAILY: How significant is the expo?

MAHDI AFZALI: Although the expo is not greatly known in Iran, it is the third top event in the world after the World Cup and Olympic Games. It is not just a cultural event, but it seriously deals with cultural programs and acculturation for other international events.

The fair aims to show the world’s modernity thanks to the massive mechanization of production and a flourishing industrial development. The expo features cultural and development programs of countries in the next five years. That is why the event is of high significance.

The theme of the previous expo was ‘Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life’ and its 2020 theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Building the Future’.

How is the expo host picked and what is the process of participating in it?

All countries vigorously compete to host the event. Expo 2020 is the first World Expo ever to be held in the Middle East.

The UAE’s officials in Dubai are in the throes of creating the best expo in the 168-year-old history of the World’s Fair. The city is really a kind of benchmark for all stages of development. The UAE in general and Dubai in particular – due to well-prepared infrastructure – outrivaled China and Russia to host the 2020 event.

The expo executives predict that during the six-month gala, which begins on October 20, it will host 25 million visitors and generate $25 billion of new revenues for the country. Although the expo will earn high revenue, the main concern for the countries is being successful in winning the competition for hosting the event.

The design offers a 1,400-square-meter pavilion for each country, but some countries get two parts. In fact, the expo is a real global village, in which all countries do their best to introduce their technological developments and cultural values to the world.

Which bodies are organizing Iran’s participation?

The Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade and International Exhibitions Company of the Islamic Republic of Iran are in charge. Every now and then a council is formed according to the expo theme to manage the affiliated organizations. Different organizations and ministries in Iran will form expert-level commissions including art and culture, heritage and tourism, financial affairs. Iran intends to have effective presence in the expo.

In 2015, Iran had a strong presence in Milan as then-Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammadreza Nematzadeh led the country’s participants.

What is the role of Institute for the Development of Contemporary Arts?

Representing the Culture Ministry, the institute is in charge of Iran’s Art and Culture Committee. Twenty folk music groups attended the previous expo and several art and culture programs were held to mark Iran’s National Day.

Usually, tourists will spend five to seven days to explore pavilions. So, it is a tough job to attract their attention to Iran’s stand among 140 countries and introduce the country in a nutshell.

Art plays a very principal role in this aspect. In previous editions, Iran’s music programs held in the pavilion and open areas of the expo got kudos, making the headlines of the European press. The performances of giant Iranian puppets – five to six meters tall each – were among the top news of the Italian media.

What are your art and culture programs for the expo?

The ground has been paved for various types of cultural programs, but music is the most influential and inexpensive medium. Instrumental music, Iran’s traditions and costumes represent the country’s cultural civilization. Iran also plans to stage joint programs with a number of countries. Iran has entered into negotiations with Italy and India to hold mixed musical programs.

Iran is also organizing calligraphy exhibitions, due to Iran and Arab commonalities in this field of art. Some special programs will also celebrate Iran’s National Day.

Generally speaking, Iran intends to have a meaningful presence in the event in a bid to draw international attention.

Source: Iran Daily

By Sadeq Dehqan & Hamideh Hosseini