Afghan Voices of Hope Exhibition Debuts in France
On March 21st, the Afghan Voices of Hope project debuted a traveling exhibition in Paris, France as part of a week-long celebration of the Persian New Year (Nowruz). Details below.
About Afghan Voices of Hope
Memria’s Afghan Voices of Hope project documents the lives of Afghans forced into exile as a result of the Taliban’s takeover in 2021. With hundreds of participants, the project represents a broad swath of the diaspora and reveals diverse visions of both Afghanistan and life abroad. In listening to and reading these stories, visitors are challenged to consider the complex reality of the refugee experience. The project seeks to inspire further support for Afghan refugees — and for other refugees around the world.
Afghan Voices of Hope Project Director Gaisu Yari suddenly found herself a refugee when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021. Realizing she was living through a pivotal moment in her country’s history, with incalculable repercussions across the globe, Gaisu began collecting the stories of fellow exiles while living in a refugee camp in Poland.
Launched by Memria.org in October, 2021, and in partnership with PROOF: Media for Social Justice, Afghan Voices of Hope has collected, transcribed, and cataloged over two hundred stories from Afghans displaced worldwide. Using documentation of personal narrative as its core methodology, the project is a space for Afghan refugees to record memories and ask provocative questions. It is a space for refugees to process feelings of loss and despair — and build toward a brighter future.
This collection of narratives has a powerful effect on listeners and readers. It inspires empathy and solidarity. The stories also provide material for historical and policy analysis, which may contribute to material change. Recording and preserving these personal accounts is vital to the future of Afghanistan and the international community.
Afghan Voices of Hope is supported by the Bertha Foundation, which helped established the project in the midst of the exodus in August 2021, the Open Society Foundations, and the Foundation for Systemic Change, as well as other partners.
More Images from the Afghan Voices of Hope Exhibition Debut
On March 21st, the Afghan Voices of Hope project debuted a traveling exhibition in Paris, France as part of a week-long celebration of the Persian New Year (Nowruz). The team behind the project participated in Nowruz festivities. They collaborated with the Afghan community in Paris and with partners supporting refugees and exiles across France, including MADERA (Mission d'Aide au Développement des Economies) and AFRANE (Amite Franco-Afghane). Sharing stories that Gaisu collected from France in February 2022, Afghan Voices of Hope worked with other stakeholders to use these testimonies in programming to help refugees across the country.
The exhibit launched at Salle Olympic de Gouges as part of a concert celebration on Nowruz day with talented artists from Collectif Amos and talented Afghan musicians, including Ali Arture, Surab Elyar, Mustafa Hunarjoo, Farzana Nawabi, Abdullah Rezai, Zigar Safi, and more. The event attracted over 1,000 attendees and Gaisu was invited onstage to introduce the audience to Afghan Voices of Hope and the exhibition.
Throughout the week, the Afghan Voices for Hope team spoke about the project to different stakeholders. They also met with representatives from France’s national Musee de l’histoire de l’immigration and discussed the museum’s interest in a formal acquisition of stories collected within France. If approved, the stories collected from Aghan refugees living in France will become part of the museum’s collections.
During the last weekend of our visit, the Afghan Voices of Hope exhibit traveled to Salle de la Legion d’Honnuer in Saint Denis as part of a two-day event featuring Afghan music, arts, and culture. On day two, Gaisu moderated a roundtable discussion on reflections and experiences of Afghan exiles living in France and the events of August 2021 as part of a conference on Afghanistan, exiles, and integration. Participants included Afghan Voices of Hope storytellers Farzana (award-winning actress), Mina (small business entrepreneur) and Younis (actor and comedian).
This storytelling initiative has had a direct impact on the lives of people in the community. For instance, Mina Rezaee was a successful entrepreneur who owned a popular café in Kabul until she evacuated to France in August 2021. After learning about Mina’s emotional story from a New York Times article, representatives from the French NGO Yes Akademia identified her as a promising young candidate for a competitive fellowship program through its Press Start initiative, a year-long training and mentorship opportunity with programs on responsible entrepreneurship, leadership, and international solidarity. Mina was recently awarded the fellowship and will begin the first immersive two-week training in Tunisia this August. Until very recently, opening up a new café in France seemed like a dream for Mina. She is now on a path forward to making it become a reality.
The storytellers are rebuilding their lives in France, both personally and professionally. They stand in solidarity to fight for Afghanistan’s democratic future.