‘The distance between us,’ shows a girl facing another. A hand shuts her mouth while another hand shuts the other’s eyes. The two cannot therefore communicate.
The photograph, a part of 23-year-old Afghan national Hanifa Alizada’s visual arts thesis at the Beaconhouse National University (BNU), has been selected for the World Bank-sponsored Imagining Our Future Together travelling art exhibition.
Alizada, who hails from the Afghan city of Ghazni, says, “The photograph draws inspiration from my time as a refugee in Tehran.” Alizada migrated to Iran as an eight year-old when her family decided that the civil war in Afghanistan was affecting her education.
“My parents decided to move to Tehran hoping it would provide us better educational opportunities,” Alizada said. “But we were not allowed to study at Iranian state schools,” she recalls. Alizada was admitted to elementary school run by Afghan refugees for their children. “The discrimination I suffered in Tehran as a child is expressed in some of my current artwork,” she says. “I began to wonder whether there was something wrong with me.”
In the spring of 2002, Alizada and her family returned to Kabul since there were no schools in Iran for Afghans to enroll for a higher education. “We left Afghanistan to pursue education and we returned…to pursue it,” she recalls. “Our return coincided with the American intervention in Afghanistan… the country was still in a state of war.”
After Alizada completed grade 12 from a private school in Kabul, her principal encouraged her to apply for admission at Beaconhouse National University (BNU) under the SAARC scholarship programme that was later renamed the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute for South Asian Arts scholarship. Alizada got the scholarship in 2008.
“My family was initially worried about me travelling to Pakistan but later gave in,” she says. “I was always curious about Pakistan…I had read about Benazir Bhutto in grade 10 and wanted to learn more about the country she belonged to. Lahore’s heat was the first thing that struck me upon arrival in September 2008,” she says.
“I was unfamiliar with the languages spoken at the university,” Alizada says. “It also took me a while to adjust to the spicy food and power outages.” A greater challenge was obtaining annual visa renewal. Salima Hashmi, the dean of the School of Visual Arts and Design, helped smoothen the process, she said.
Alizada’s photograph shortlisted out of a total of 280 entries from SAARC countries, will be displayed along with 24 other shortlisted artworks at different World Bank offices in South Asia from September this year to May 2013 after which they will be displayed in Washington DC between June and July 2013.
Alizada hopes to get a job at the Kabul University. She also looks forward to art exhibitions in Kabul and Lahore later this year. She said that the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan had several misconceptions about one another due to political differences. “Perhaps…the youth of both countries can help overcome them.” On concluding her arts education, she says, “It feels like finally going to bed after a long, hard day.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2012.
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Congrats hanifa. So proud of you and Bet wishes for your future :)
I have seen Hanifas art in real life and all i can say is that her work emotes such emotion. Welcome to a new age and species of artist world. Whatever might be the driving force her work speaks for itself. congrats hanifa and best of luck for the future..
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@Erfan: I think that Pakistan has got more messed up because of the millions of Afghani refugees who are there. Why can't they just go back to Afghanistan and why can't a big wall or fence be made to keep the border closed. I think Pakistan has suffered enough because of Afghanis. Even the government of Afghanistan uses its nation as a base to attack Pakistan with their Indian allies.
I think there are million of things that we are grateful to Pakistan but there are a lot of messed up stuff that Pak has done to Afghanistan which is a fact. Now you can't simply ignore the messing up part just because you got education.
Her picture conveys feelings of 10000000000 million individuals all around the world. She is a true genius, make more art!
@Amjad: Afghans arent anti pakistani we share the same blood and we are one its just the bad politics of pakistan which divides us. other then that we are brother from different mother.
The entries are 231 and not 280...
Yes. I am glad you got your education. But when you step back into Afghanistan, will we hear you say "Thank you." NO! She, like the millions of Afghan refugees will blame the "Punjabis" for everything. In Lahore, there are Baloch students, there are Sindhi students and there are Pashtun students. The Pashtun population is rapidly growing in Lahore. By Allah, I, as a Punjabi love them but despite all this they have nothing but utter hatred for us. I know people whose relatives got shot and killed in Balochistan simply because they were Punjabis. The Afghans have nothing but absolute hatred for us. Yet, they refuse to leave Pakistan. They curse it and hate it but want to live here. I don't mean any Afghan brother any harm but honestly, we should have learned from Iran. Treat them as refugees all over the world are treated. They cannot leave their camps - no education and no jobs. Just food, clothes and lodging!
It's odd that Pakistan is so open to allowing Afghani students and refugees whereas Iran keeps them locked up in refugee camps. Despite the better treatment Afghanis get in Pakistan, they are still very pro Indian and ant Pakistani.
Anyway I have many friends and they are from other provinces and the day they left Punjab they develop a hysteria of criticizing us and start hating us and I am sure they day she will go back she will blame everything on Punjabis as well like the rest of Pakistanis and Afghans blame on us. We are inviting everyone here and in the end what we got is anger and disgust from the rest of Pakistan and from Neighboring countries as well. Anyone can come in Punjab but for Punjabis the whole of Pakistan is just Upper Punjab and rest of Pakistan is now a no go region for us.