In Greek mythology, the gods punished Sisyphus, king of Corinth, for his sins by forcing him to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him. He was to repeat this action for eternity. A man of our times, Iranian artist Shahin Tivay Sadatolhosseini decided on his own free will to do something similar, but with a wheel that could become his lifelong companion.
In Sadatolhosseini’s case, it was not a punishment, but a sort of pilgrimage to his country of birth. He was born in Iran but has lived his entire life in Germany, where his family took refuge to escape the war against Iraq.
Rolling something known as a gymnastics wheel (Rhönrad in German), which he uses for his performances, Sadatolhosseini traveled on foot from Aachen in Germany to Tehran in Iran, asking strangers for a place to spend the night. Most people were ready to oblige, showing a sincere spirit of hospitality.
The dancer and photographer chronicled his yearlong journey with the wheel on his website, Roll East, and caught the attention of German media.
The Rhönrad was invented in Germany in 1925 by one Otto Feick. Still today, it is in Germany that it’s mostly put to use. Sadatolhosseini helped organize the Rhönrad World Championships in 2005, and is doing his best to make this special wheel more widely known.
For his pilgrimage in the company of the big wheel, which weighed 100 kilos, he found supporters and sponsors. Not all went smoothly during the trip, since he had to fight against the weather. Often, the weather conditions would not allow him to sleep in the open air.
Also there were regimes that wouldn’t get what he was doing and arrest him, as happened in Turkey. Still, this past summer, he managed to achieve the goal he had set for himself and reach Iran within a year. In all, he crossed 21 countries and walked almost 6,000 kilometers.
The wheel proved to be a silent companion, a source of inspiration, a home, something of a mule or a donkey for his luggage, even a camera crane for the artist. The circle of one year and the wheel as a circle were the symbols of his pilgrimage to a country that meant everything to him, but where he had never had the chance to live.