The journey of Giveh begins with myself, my story, my culture, and the things that inspire me. I’d like to share this journey with all that are interested and hope to feed off your inspirations. Your shared comments and stories are much appreciated.
My name is Hanieh. I was born in Tehran, the capital of Iran in the midst of the 8 year long Iran-Iraq war (also known as the First Gulf War). My mother, a state social worker, was living alone in Tehran while my father was working in the U.S. Nearly 10 years of being apart from my mother, he was finally able to bring us both to the states where we settled in the small suburban town of Verona, NJ. I was nearly 7 years old when I came to the U.S. not knowing a word of English. Despite the difficulties we initially faced, we were able to settle in quickly.
Like many other first generation immigrants I was torn between the culture I grew up in and the new American culture I was slowly integrating into. It wasn’t until attending college at one of the most diverse universities in the nation, Rutgers University, where I finally found a sense of belonging and comfort with who I was and I felt a deep connection with my cultural roots, history, and past.
The summer of my sophomore year in college, I traveled to Iran alone where I visited various museums, cities, villages, and met local craftsmen. I fell in love and quickly became fascinated with my county’s art, culture, diversity, history, and timeless artifacts. From watching carpet weavers in Kashan, to pottery makers in Ghom, to visiting the Jewel Museum in Tehran where imperial crown jewels of Persia are housed, to the ancient ruins of Persepolis- there was no greater feeling than talking with and connecting to my culture’s rich history, treasures, and people.
It wasn’t until I visited a village approximately 1 hour south of Isfahan where I first came across the 1000 year old shoes known as Giveh. The craftsman who was making these shoes right in front of me, was quick to share his story and tell me about these shoes. He explained that although these shoes are predominantly worn by men, woman can also wear them. He continued to tell me about the shoe’s uniqueness in that there’s no distinction between the left and right foot since its meant to mold to wearer’s feet. He explained nearly 2 days and countless hours go into making the shoes including the handmade sole. After a few minutes of bidding and bribing, we were able to agree on a price for the shoes. They looked fairly stylish and although at first they felt different than any other shoe I’ve ever worn, I fell in love with how breathable and comfortable they were. I went on to wear them as I continued to explore more historic and cultural sites in my country.
I returned back to the states that summer feeling like a different person because this experience had helped me learn more about the rich history that my roots had sprung from. I still hold on to the Givehs I purchased that summer, to remind me of not only my roots and the deep history embedded in them, but the steps I took that summer in order to learn more about myself. My Givehs represented an endless journey of self discovery.