The last four days at the Kabul Theater Festival has been heady, thrilling, hopeful, and heartful. I was overjoyed to meet most of the theater artists that I worked with last year. They were presenting their work at the festival (one of them won best scenery and costumes!) and they all looked radiant and full of life. Moreover, I met so many new, creative people working in MANY different provinces of Afghanistan and in different forms of theater.
We met groups who have faced great danger making their art, people new to theater, others who are well established, some on the cutting edge, and folks who are just joining in for the sake of it – maybe hearing about it for the first time. This is exactly the type of vitality and diversity you want to see in any field.
In general (and not just with theater folks) there is so much love, energy, brilliance, and hope I feel when talking to Afghanis. Just the opposite of what the mainstream media shows us. I suppose that outside forces need people to believe things are drab and hopeless to get support for unending war. Imagine if we heard about theater festivals, language schools, women judges, youth voices, inter-ethnic solidarity projects, music and dance forms, etc.?
The truth is, Afghanis are creating their futures with vision and dedication. I hope that reading this blog will allow you to reignite your hope for the people of Afghanistan and believe in their brilliance and power. Hope springs eternal – through theater!
There is such diversity in the look and feel and styles of the various performances.
A brilliant young university student from Herat did a fantastic clown show and had us all laughing and crying. Her amazing mother and father joined her onstage for the curtain call. You could see how much they loved their daughter and supported her dreams. All artists should have parents like hers!
Being raised in a South/West Asian home, in NYC, I have the privilege to be able to see things from different cultural perspectives and to carry with me the knowledges of many people. (I use the plural to reflect that there is no one “knowledge”.) I am blessed to have an extended family of second mothers, sisters and brothers who have shared with me some of Puerto Rican culture, African American culture, LGBTQ culture, Jewish culture and so on. I am grateful to have that information and perspective as a part of my being.
But, I too get to be a “stupid American” sometimes – seeing things as funny or odd because of where I come from. It can be people, situations, or everyday things. I realize the ethnic boxes and categories we have are measly and hollow. Just look and see. I am sure you’ll recognize a cousin, a sister, a neighbor, a friend. No matter where you go in the world, human beings are more alike than we are different.