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Growing up in the Soviet Era of Stagnation and in a household ruled by anger, Sadagat Aliyeva always had a burning desire for freedom. She was drawn to the arts, poetry, and spirituality as a child and teenager to escape the reality around her that she couldn’t bear. Her desire for freedom eventually brought her to the United States. Although Sadagat had a higher education in theater, she had to start all over again in middle age by learning a new language and new life. She graduated from the DMACC Graphic Design program in 2012.

Sadagat lives in Des Moines with her husband, three teenage children, and two cats. She’s a librarian at the Clive Public Library.

Sadagat describes America as a land where dreams can grow freely. A vast variety of experiences throughout her life inspire Sadagat to tell stories and draw. Her folktale-like stories draw attention to the beauty and wisdom in human nature.

Artist Statement

"I grew up on the shore of the Caspian Sea in a small town, Turkan, on the Absheron Peninsula, near Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Baku is famous for its oil, but most people probably don’t know that Baku is also known as the city of art and culture.  The Absheron Peninsula is a small desert-like land known for its grapes, fig trees, and pomegranate trees. There were eight kids in my family, and each of us had one fig tree in our yard. I remember as a child how impatiently I waited for the first figs to ripen and to brag about seeing the first fruit before anyone else. I made friends with one of the pomegranate trees in the yard, and every night, when everyone had gone to bed, I would sneak out to talk with my tree, to tell her all my troubles. And I believed she always helped me by listening to me and tenderly shaking her branches.   

As a child, fairy tales and myths fascinated me. My mom used to tell us stories before bed that I never found in any book. I learned to read early, and I devoured any book of tales I could find in the library. I grew up hearing ghazal, a form of poetry, and Mugam, a type of folk music, which deeply rooted in my soul. There are many many classical writers and poets who inspired me: Nizami, Mehseti, Fuzuli, Nesimi, Natavan, Shahriyar, Cavid . . . The Book of Dede Korkut is like a holy book. Its stories full of wisdom always inspired me. 

I grew up at the crossroads of the Middle East/Asia and Europe: two different cultures, two different philosophies, two different visions.  I grew up at the crossroads of ancient poetry, music, and folk art and Soviet realism. On one hand the beauty of patterns, textiles, color, and desert sands, and on the other hand, jazz, modern art, and European theater. 

When I came to Iowa, the first thing that amazed me was the great kindness I experienced in people. Iowans welcomed my family and me. They gave us a home. I’ve met people here who helped me to find peace, freedom, and myself.Azerbaijan planted a storyteller in me, and Iowa watered and cared for this plant, helping it to grow and bloom. Azerbaijan is the land of miniature art, handwoven carpets, and stories that sank in my soul and shaped an ancient storyteller in me. Iowa is the land of diverse cultures, great opportunities, and fresh soil for new ideas and creativity that opened a path for that storyteller to reach out to a new world. 

 I’m telling the stories of my ancestors in a new language. "