top of page



Bahareh Keith

Artist Statement

A monarch butterfly in migration flies further, crosses borders, and lives nine times longer than the generations before. There are more dangers in migration, but also much reward. Surviving bombings that reduced my hometown to rubble in the Iran-Iraq war began my migration. I learned early the value of life: first mortal and then existential. Oppression always came with justification for devaluing others. Conquest and seeking power justified an eight-year war killing hundreds of thousands. They have persecuted generations of my Mandaean indigenous ancestors since time immemorial, justified by religious doctrine. I examine how the subject of one’s loyalty may change. How do we balance devotion to those we love against the needs of the self? Could we evolve our dogma as we learn new truths that we had no way of knowing before? Can we keep the nectar of tradition, like strong community, but shed the old ways that carry prejudice? Can we reconcile the value of life with the value of our beliefs? Could we be flexible in our beliefs in service to life? In my work, I explore themes of autonomy, belonging, and the many manufactured ways in which we exclude and suppress others to the deterioration of our shared morality and humanity. Shedding my skin, I form a chrysalis. Then dissolving muscles of culture, religion, politics, family sacrifice, and exile transform into wings of empathy, community, altruism, and justice.

Home: Work

Bahareh was born in Iran at the height of the revolution. Her hometown on the river that divides Iran and Iraq was demolished in the war, making her a refugee in her homeland. Her family was persecuted in their own country because they belonged to an ancient ethnic and religious minority, the Mandaeans. They escaped to India where she almost died of malaria inspiring her to become a pediatrician.
Through it all she found solace in poetry and writing. The US granted her family asylum in 1991. She earned international attention and is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, AMA Journal of Ethics, and Virtual Mentor, advocating for children. She turns now to more creativity through her writing and helps others find connection through narrative medicine facilitation.



bottom of page