Afghan Art & Activism Panel Discussion
On Friday, September 17 at at 5 p.m. PT, Seattle Rep hosted a livestreamed virtual panel discussion on Afghan Art & Activism. This conversation is an opportunity to highlight the panelists, the work they are doing, the stories they want to tell, and the ways that they want the greater public to support.
Hosted in partnership with Howlround Theatre Commons.
Co-Founder of Afghan Friends Network (AFN); Cultural Consultant
Humaira Ghilzai is a writer, speaker, and Afghanistan cultural consultant. She focuses on projects that bring positive social change. She co-founded Afghan Friends Network and instituted the Sister City relationship between Hayward, California and Ghazni, Afghanistan where she has done extensive work to improve education for girls, boys, and women.
Humaira is a sought after cultural expert who has worked with notable professional theaters, authors, playwrights, and artists for the past ten years, utilizing her extensive knowledge of Afghan people, culture, religion, and history to bring authenticity to their creative work relating to Afghanistan and the Islamic world. Humaira shares Afghan culture and cuisine through her blog Afghan Culture Unveiled and YouTube channel. She shares the wonders of Afghanistan through stories of rich culture, delicious food, and her family’s traditions.
Humaira helps people connect with stories of Afghan people, immigrants, and the Islamic world on a human level because at the end of the day, we are all fighting the same issues. Humaira was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan but her family fled the country right after the Russian invasion in 1979 and they made the Bay Area their new home. Humaira has traveled to six continents, 37 countries—including a pilgrimage to Mecca.
You can learn about Humaira on her website, www.humairaghilzai.com
Sylvia Khoury is a New York-born writer of French and Lebanese descent. Her plays include Selling Kabul (Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Theater Festival), Power Strip (LCT3), Against the Hillside (Ensemble Studio Theater) and The Place Women Go. She is currently under commission from Lincoln Center and Williamstown Theater Festival. Awards include the L. Arnold Weissberger Award and Jay Harris Commission and a Citation of Excellence from the Laurents/Hatcher Awards. She is a member of EST/Youngblood and a previous member of the 2018-2019 Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop at The Lark and the 2016-2018 WP Lab. Her plays have been developed at Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Theater Festival, Eugene O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, Roundabout Theater Underground, Lark Playwrights’ Week, EST/Youngblood, and WP Theater. She holds a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from the New School for Drama. She is a fourth-year student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Photo by Yael Nov
Photographer, Artist, Author
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan and raised in rural Washington state, Gazelle Samizay’s work often reflects the complexities and contradictions of culture, nationality, and gender through the lens of her bicultural identity. Her work in photography, video, and mixed media has been exhibited across the U.S. and internationally, including at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Slamdance Film Festival, Park City, UT. Her pieces are part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY; and En Foco, NY. In addition to her studio practice, her writing has been published in One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature and she is a founding member of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association. Samizay has received numerous awards and residencies, including from the Princess Grace Foundation, NY; Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles; the Arizona Community Foundation, Phoenix; Level Ground, Los Angeles and the Torrance Art Museum. She received her M.F.A. in photography at the University of Arizona and currently lives in San Francisco.
Actor, Writer, Activist
Fatima Wardak is an Afghan-American actor, writer, and activist. She was born and raised in Seattle, WA after her family had fled Afghanistan during the brutal Soviet invasion. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and continues to develop her voice as an artist, working primarily with physical storytelling to bring theater to all audiences by breaking language barriers and using the language of the body. She is also writing her own TV series based on the experiences of her family fleeing Afghanistan and finding their new home in the United States.
She studied at Western Washington University and received degrees in both Theater/Acting as well as Political Science with an emphasis on International Relations. As a writer and admirer of poetry, her award-winning poems and writings have been featured in many devised productions she has been a part of. She is a co-founder of the Seattle-based WanderLost Laboratory Theatre, “an ensemble devising company of theater artists dedicated to creating unique theatrical experiences that invite audiences to challenge, confront, or evaluate their own perspectives.” Fatima aims to focus her art on underrepresented voices, and is insistent on reclaiming the narrative of Afghans and Muslims that has so often been co-opted by the western media.
In March of 2018, Fatima was invited as a guest speaker to the Afghan-American Conference at New York University’s School of Law, where she delivered a TED-style talk on domestic violence and its effects on and within the Afghan-American community and diaspora as a whole.
In 2016 just after graduating from university, she single-handedly launched a grassroots fundraising project called “The Journal Project,” where she provided a journal, art supplies, as well as basic necessities such as food and clothing, to over 350 orphans living in Kabul, Afghanistan. Fatima led some workshops on art-therapy and theater, and hopes to continue to do this vitally important work.