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by bacblogarts

The current exhibition is currently closed due to issues beyond our control. We apologise for any inconvenience.


Image: Najiba Noori, Endless Sorrow, 2021, archival pigment print 15 x 21cm. Courtesy the artist.

Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan

2 August to 3 September 2022
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre

Bringing together powerful and diverse Afghan voices, Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan explores the legacy of war and the future of Afghanistan through the eyes of artists and journalists.

The exhibition features internationally renowned artist and Blacktown resident, Khadim Ali, and new multimedia artworks by Afghan-Australian artist, Elyas Alavi. Melbourne-based street-artist Tia Kasambalis’ drawings are a series of portraits of people connected to the Afghan War both in Australia and Afghanistan. London-based Afghan artist, Orna Kazimi, presents a striking animation and a free zine that visitors can take home.

Afghan photo-journalist, Najiba Noori, shares a series of images capturing the complex ebbs and flows of life, death and migration in recent years. Journalist Antony Loewenstein shares behind the scenes clips from his documentary and journalistic work as well as photos from his visits to Afghanistan. A specially commissioned short film commenting on the legacy of the war has been made by two, anonymous female Afghan-Australian artists.

The exhibition has been curated by Antony Loewenstein and Alana Hunt with curatorial advice from Nur Shkembi. The program of talks and gatherings has been curated and produced by Maryam Zahid, Director of Afghan Women on the Move. Maryam invites visitors to enjoy Afghan tea and sweets during these public events.

Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan exhibition includes artworks responding to and portraying war and conflict. This exhibition extends across both Gallery 1 and 2. At Blacktown Arts we want to support the work of artists, curators, and community leaders. At the same time, we acknowledge that visitors to Blacktown Arts have a range of lived experiences, and some visitors may find the content in the exhibition sensitive or unsuitable for viewing.

We recommend that children be accompanied by an adult when visiting Gallery 1.
If you would like further information on the exhibition, please contact our staff on artscentre@blacktown.nsw.gov.au or (02) 9839 6558.

Public Program

The Twenty Years public program aims to be a safe platform and place of connection to discuss the challenging issues that arise from the exhibition. The program comprises of a film screening and panel, and a series of panel discussions curated, produced and hosted by Maryam Zahid.

All programs will feature Afghan tea and sweets courtesy of Afghan Women on the Move.

Please be advised that Twenty Years: The War in Afghanistan public program includes discussions addressing themes of war and conflict that may be sensitive or unsuitable for some visitors.  

We recommend panel discussions for mature audiences.
If you would like further information on the public program, please contact our staff on artscentre@blacktown.nsw.gov.au or (02) 9839 6558.

FILM SCREENING

Image: Fahim Hashimy, Still from The Afghan Cameleers in Australia

Celebrating Afghan culture: A screening of The Afghan Cameleers in Australia

Please be advised this program is no longer going ahead.

2 pm to 4 pm, Saturday 13 August 2022
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre

Directed by Fahim Hashimy, The Afghan Cameleers in Australia is a documentary film that explores the relationships formed between the Afghan cameleers who were brought to Australia in the 1860s and local Indigenous women. A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Speakers: Omid Nezami singer and TV presenter, Hasibaa Ebrahimi actor, and Fahim Hashimy director of The Afghan Cameleers in Australia.

There will be a Q&A for audience members following the screening  followed by a traditional Afghan tea corner, offering tea and sweets.

PANEL DISCUSSIONS

Legacy of the war

Please be advised this program is no longer going ahead.

Thursday 11 August, 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre

The panel will discuss the legacy of the conflict and the present reality in Afghanistan.

Speakers: Lala Pordeli, Nematullah Bizhan and Antony Loewenstein, led by Maryam Zahid

Image: Najiba Noori, Mohammad Basir, Resistant Soul, courtesy and © the artist

A year after Twenty Years

Presented by Diversity Arts Australia
Wednesday 24 August, 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm
Online Zoom Discussion 

While looking towards the future, this panel reflects on the year that’s followed the US-led withdrawal of Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban, considering what it means for those in Afghanistan and Australia.

Speakers: Diana Sayed, David McBride, Sayed Rahmatullah Hussainizada, Elyas Alavi and Maryam Zahid.

Image: Najiba Noori, Afghan Men in a Bridal Shop, Kabul – Collection, courtesy and © the artist

Future: possibilities and responsibilities

Saturday 3 September, 2 pm to 4 pm
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre

The panel discussion opens up space to think about what Afghanistan’s future could be under the Taliban and what role or relationship Australia could have with the country following its military withdrawal in 2021.

Speakers: Abdullah Alikhil, Farah Altaf Atahee and Elyas Alavi, led by Maryam Zahid.

Image: Antony Loewenstein, Afghanistan’s last remaining Jew, courtesy and © the artist

Bios

Exhibition Artists

Elyas Alavi is a Tarntanya (Adelaide) based artist and poet whose practice across visual art and poetry addresses issues around displacement, trauma, exile, gender and sexual identity. Born in Daikundi province, Afghanistan, Alavi moved to Iran as a child following the intensification of war in his homeland. In 2007 he moved to Australia as a refugee at risk and is currently based in Tarntanya (Adelaide). Reflecting on his Hazara background, Alavi uses his particular experiences and contemplations as an epistemological model for the dislocation of peoples. This auto-ethnographic approach offers a representative perspective for other displaced people and contributes to a deepening knowledge of the refugee and migration experience.

Khadim Ali, born of Afghan Hazara parentage, grew up on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. His parents hoped to one day return to their family lands in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. As a child, Ali was deeply influenced by his grandfather, a Shanamah singer, and by the miniature paintings that illustrated the stories of the Shanamah, a tenth-century epic poem. Ali studied miniature painting at the National College of Arts, Lahore and calligraphy at Tehran University, Iran. The artist’s intricate works encompass imagery from history, politics, literature, poetry and mythology to explore contemporary events such as the civil war in Afghanistan and personal experiences of persecution, displacement and discrimination.

Tia Kasambalis is a Walkley award nominated illustrator, street artist and activist, working out of Victoria Trades Hall Art Studio, Melbourne. He’s published work in The Saturday Paper, SBS, Overland Journal, The Lifted Brow and for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. His SBS series on the Rohingya community in Melbourne was nominated for a 2018 Walkley award. His work combines hyperreal, hand-illustrated portraiture with comic-like characters that tell stories and gives voice to the oppressed and those fighting back against a corrupt system. He is also involved in antifascist organisation through the campaign against racism and fascism (CARF).

Orna Kazimi is a visual artist based in London. Orna’s work and research explore personal encounters with migration in relation to collective trauma and memories of displacement through drawings, installation and writing. Her work has received recognitions and nominations for a wide range of prizes and grants such as Ingram Art Prize in 2021 (shortlisted) and the Writers Grant funded by Creative Debuts in 2020.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, author, filmmaker and co-founder of Declassified Australia. He’s written for the Guardian, New York Times and many others. His books include Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out of Catastrophe and Pills, Powder and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs and films include Disaster Capitalism and the Al Jazeera English films West Africa’s Opioid Crisis and Under the Cover of Covid. His next book, out in 2023, is on how Israel’s occupation has gone global.

Najiba Noori’s family emigrated to Iran to escape from the ongoing civil war in the country. She started school in Iran, and after her family returned to Afghanistan in 2004 she continued her education at a high school in Bamyan. Noori began working for media organizations as a volunteer when she was just 15. Alongside her work she has practiced photography and videography since 2015. She has studied photography and filmmaking in Kabul, taking courses provided by the British Council and Sahar Speaks. She has made documentary films and photostories for various organizations and agencies, including the AFP, Huffington Post, MSF, FMIC, NRC and UN in Afghanistan. She joined Agence France-Presse (AFP) as video journalist in August 2019, and in August 2021 she left her country when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. She now lives in France.

Film

Celebrating Afghan culture: A screening of The Afghan Cameleers in Australia

Omid Nezami  امید نظامی  is an Afghan singer and TV presenter who has anchored a variety of Afghan television shows including Afghan Star and Bamdad khosh and TOLO TV. Omid is currently living in Sydney, Australia.

Hasiba Ebrahimi is an Afghan actress who has played several leading roles in internationally recognized films such as The Bird Was Not A Bird, Hava, Maryam, Ayesha and more. Her film The Bird Was Not A Bird was selected among the top 25 international films at the Hollywood Screening Festival in 2017.

Fahim Hashimy is founder and Director at GIFFA Ghan International Film Festival, Australia

Panel Discussions

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, author, film-maker and co-founder of Declassified Australia. He’s written for the Guardian, New York Times and many others. He’s reported from Afghanistan since 2012, and is the co-creator of the Twenty Years project.

Nematullah Bizhan is a lecturer in Public Policy at the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University, and a Senior Research Associate with the Global Economic Governance Program at Oxford University.

Lala Pordeli is a solicitor who has practiced law for almost 10 years. In January 2022, Lala Pordeli opened her own law firm called Pordeli Legal in Sydney.

Maryam Zahid is an award-winning Afghan-Australian social activist and artist. She’s the founder and Director of the not-for-profit organisation, Afghan Women on the Move.

Diana Sayed is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights. She joined the organisation as an international human rights lawyer with experience working in both Australia and the United States.

David McBride is a former Australian military lawyer who blew the whistle on war crimes committed by Australia in Afghanistan.

Elyas Alavi is a Tarntanya (Adelaide) based artist and poet whose practice across visual art and poetry addresses issues around displacement, trauma, exile, gender and sexual identity. Elyas’ auto-ethnographic approach offers a representative perspective for other displaced people and contributes to a deepening knowledge of the refugee and migration experience.

Sayed Rahmatullah Hussainizada is a refugee rights advocate and a human rights lawyer, running his own law firm, Hussaini Law Group in Western Sydney.

Sayed is an executive member of the National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG). Sayed has completed a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney.

Abdullah Alikhil is a multi-award-winning journalist and executive producer of the Pashto Radio Program on SBS. He has extensive experience in public relations and immigration matters, and has offered his services across the world for issues relating to refugees, returnees, and asylum seekers.

Judge Farah Altaf Atahee is a former judge with 9 years of experience in both the civil and criminal court systems in Afghanistan. Fahrah has recently arrived from Afghanistan, after receiving two MAs and working as a judge and judiciary trainer in the Supreme Court.

Elyas Alavi is a Tarntanya (Adelaide) based artist and poet whose practice across visual art and poetry addresses issues around displacement, trauma, exile, gender and sexual identity. Elyas’ auto-ethnographic approach offers a representative perspective for other displaced people and contributes to a deepening knowledge of the refugee and migration experience.

Please be advised that the exhibition contains content from the conflict in Afghanistan that may be sensitive to some visitors.

Please ask our staff if you would like further information about the artworks before visiting the exhibition.

The project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Proudly funded by the NSW Government in association with Blacktown City Council and Blacktown Arts. The program is presented in partnership with Diversity Arts Australia and Afghan Women on the Move. 

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