The Afghan American Artists and Writers Association is an Afghan women-led collective that organizes community exhibitions, creative workshops, and public commentaries in order to showcase pivotal diasporic works to a broad audience. Based in North America, AAAWA aims to amplify work that critically analyzes discourse on Afghanistan in the U.S. mainstream, where Afghan voices are routinely ignored or reduced to cultural tropes. Through its forums, AAAWA illuminates a multiplicity of issues ranging from hybrid identities to gender and sexuality to the multigenerational impacts of war, including the ongoing ramifications of U.S. imperialism and capitalism. We see ourselves connected through not only our ancestral ties, but also through a shared vision for social justice for marginalized communities globally. We are Afghans, Muslims, and/or queer Americans with intersectional identities.
Sahar Muradi is an Afghan-born, Florida-grown, and NY-based writer and performer. She is co-editor, with Zohra Saed, of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press, 2010). Her writing has appeared in Drunken Boat, dOCUMENTA, phati’tude, Elsewhere, and Green Mountains Review. She is the recipient of an Asian American Writers’ Workshop Open City Fellowship and a Himan Brown Creative Writing Award in Poetry. Sahar has an MPA in international development from New York University, a BA in creative writing from Hampshire College, and is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Brooklyn College.
Zarin Hamid is an adopted native of New Jersey, where after some circling she has come back to work and live. She has studied political science and peace and conflict resolution, and in addition to writing works on policies related to gender discrimination, violence, and human rights.
Leila Christine Nadir is an Afghan-American artist and writer whose work focuses on evolutions of food, environment, memory, media, and identity. Her research interests are the outcome of her disjointed upbringing within both an urban, Afghan immigrant community and an all-American, pastoral small town. Every week, she moved between her public schooling in an all-white small town and visiting Afghan friends and attending the mosque in the city of Rochester, NY. In 2009 she earned her PhD in Literature from Columbia University, and in 2010-2011 was an Andrew Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow at Wellesley College. Her creative work has earned support from the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Franklin Furnace Fund, and numerous academic fellowships. She is currently at work on a memoir, titled Afghan/American, about the colorful marriage of her Afghan, Muslim father and Slovak, Catholic mother, who together raised seven children. Excerpts from Afghan/American have appeared in The North American Review and The Asian American Literary Review. She is currently a faculty member at the University of Rochester.
Wazhmah Osman is a writer, filmmaker, and academic who travels frequently between NYC and Kabul. She is Assistant Professor of Globalization and Development Communication, M&C and Media Studies, and Production at Temple University in Philadelphia. Having received her PhD from New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, Wazhmah’s dissertation was titled “Thinking Outside the Box: Television and the Afghan Culture Wars”. Her short film Buried Alive: Afghan Women Under the Taliban was widely circulated by human rights organizations and her critically acclaimed feature, Postcards from Tora Bora, has screened in film festivals nationally and internationally. For more information please visit www.postcardsfromtorabora.com.
Regina Corallo is currently pursuing her Doctor of Arts at St. John’s University, with an emphasis in transnational literature and feminism, and digital culture, within a transnational context. She is an adjunct professor at St. John’s where she also received her Master of Arts in English Literature. Her current project involves examining the digital writing and storytelling practices of Afghan women at home and within the diaspora, using transnational feminist and post-humanist feminist science studies to question issues of embodiment, entanglements of self and other, and the practices of ethics within creative and political cross-cultural interaction. She is a member of the St. John’s Digital Humanities project. Recent publications include a biography on American poet Pattiann Rogers in Modern American Environmentalists (2009).
Zohra Saed is a Brooklyn-based poet, academic and editor. She holds an M.F.A in Poetry from Brooklyn College and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in English at The City University of New York Graduate Center. Her poetry and essays have been published in numerous anthologies and journals. Some publications include: This Day: Diaries of American Women (2002); Chosen Shore: Stories of Immigrants (U. California Press: 2004); Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out (Olive Branch Press: 2005); Cut Loose (Rutgers U. Press: 2006); Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality (Seal Press: 2006); Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women (AAWAA: 2007); Gallerie International Journal: Afghanistan (India: 2009); and in Speaking for Herself: Asian Women’s Writings (Penguin India Books: 2009). She has performed as part of the cast of the theater director Ping Chong’s Undesirable Elements in 2000 and in 2007, where the ensemble cast performed at the first National Asian American Theater Festival. The full script was published in: New York Theater Review 2008 Ed. Brook Stowe. Her academic work focuses on Central Asian & Middle Eastern American literature, film and video art. She is a doctoral candidate at The City University of New York Graduate Center. As a teacher she initiated the following courses at Hunter College: Arab American Literature; West Asian American Literature and Film; and Central Asian Film and Literature. Zohra’s most recent project is: One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press, 2010) co-editors Zohra Saed & Sahar Muradi.
Gazelle Samizay was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and now resides in Los Angeles. Her photographs and videos have been exhibited across the US and internationally, including Brazil, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Pakistan, the U.A.E and the UK. In addition to her studio practice, she has taught courses in Afghanistan, Jordan and the US, and her writing has been published in One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature. Samizay is a recipient of the Princess Grace Experimental Film Honoraria, the 1885 Graduate Fellowship in the Arts and Humanities, and the Northern Trust Enrichment Award, among others. She received her Master of Fine Arts in photography at the University of Arizona and is a photography professor at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh-Online Division.
Helena Zeweri is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. Prior to joining the department, Helena received an MA in Anthropology from The New School for Social Research and an MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University. She received her BA in Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University. Her research examines the politics of care and surveillance in relation to gender-based violence eradication programs for Muslim refugee women in Australia. Since 2009, Helena has helped to direct a research initiative called Strategic Advocacy for Human Rights (SAHR), which links academic work on gender politics in the Middle East and South Asia with legal, activist, and student work on such issues. In a side project, Helena has been examining how progress and freedom are imagined within literacy and scholarship programs for Afghan women studying in the United States. As an Afghan American, Helena has found anthropology a productive way to help make sense of the categories and histories that were attached to the Afghan diaspora in the wake of September 11th, and the broader imaginaries of Afghanistan that emerged alongside it. Engaging in artistic initiatives like AAAWA offers a unique set of interlocutors through which to grapple with the political potential of art, and its inherited histories and detachments.
Madina Tabesh is a recent New York transplant originally from Vancouver, Canada, by way of Kabul. Her interest lies in the intersection of race and identity, civil rights, social justice, public health, law, justice and concept of morality, and writing and the arts, through an intersectional feminist critique of everything else not mentioned. She is a 2016-17 Global Health Corps fellow, NYCLU Community Organizing Institute fellow, and mantu lover.
Seelai Karzai is a community organizer, poet, and chocolate enthusiast who hails from Queens, New York. She earned a B.A. in English Literature and Classics from Hunter College in New York City. She is currently a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, working toward a master’s degree in theological studies at the intersection of women, gender and sexuality studies, and religion. As a graduate student, Seelai’s work traces the history of sexuality in narrative memoirs written or performed by those at the margins of the Afghan diaspora in the United States and Canada. Seelai’s writing has appeared in OSM! (Awesome Global Citizens) online magazine, Ricochet, and Truthout. When she’s not protesting against the police state or eating, you can usually find her tweeting or exploring pastry shops.
Nadia Maiwandi is an Afghan-American who born in New York City and raised in L.A. Her writing has been published in Willamette Week, AlterNet.org, The Oregonian, New America Media, Newsday, phati’tude Literary Magazine, Just Out, afghanmagazine.com, Orange County Voice, AWOL, and anthologies “One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature,” “Another World Is Possible,” and “Shattering Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out,” among others. She has a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach, and an M.S. in Mass Communications from San Jose State University.
Contributing Artists and Writers
Laimah Osman is a Brooklyn-based artist and educator whose artistic production takes the form of prints, drawings and artists’ books. Her work has been displayed in numerous exhibitions and is archived various libraries. She has been awarded residencies at The Lower East Side Printshop, Kala Art Institute and Women’s Studio Workshop as well as grants from Brooklyn Arts Council and Jerome Foundation. Currently, she is teaching at Parsons The New School for Design and making prints with local poets. She graduated with a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University (1998); and an MFA from Pratt Institute (2010).
For more information and images of her work visit: http://azadportfolio.net
Yusuf “Yoshi” Misdaq, is a English/Afghan poet and novelist who has taken residence in America for a number of years. He presently lives in Hawai’i. His work serves to enlarge and examine the energies, powers and distilled wonders that human beings encounter everyday, with the aim of bringing people closer to themselves and each other. He also explores folk-traditions, particularly of Eastern culture, and much of his art documents where these intersect with the modern West. While much of his previous work has been featured on NPR, BBC and WIRE magazine to name a few, Yusuf Misdaq generally favors alternative methods when it comes to publicizing his work and communing with his audiences (methods which bypass traditional/social-media altogether).
Love, spirituality, and the creative instinct all form central themes of his diverse oeuvre, which can be explored and previewed at length on his website.
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Here are some photos from past events:
A New Day: Iranian and Afghan American Writers March 12, 2010