I am a visual artist and educator making multidisciplinary artwork based in language and poetry. I want to offer tactile experiences for those who are left out of a dominant language and culture. As an immigrant in this country I know how it feels to be excluded from public dialogue and spaces. I want my art to speak to many communities. I make this work thinking about my parents and my own early experiences of arriving to a new country.
My family escaped Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded in 1979. We crossed the Khyber Pass into neighboring Pakistan. We arrived here in 1984—refugees of war in a small suburb of New Jersey. My sisters and I learned very little about our native region in the American education system or through mainstream media. When Afghanistan is presented it is in connection to violence and war. Afghan people are often portrayed as violent—men as terrorists and women as victims.
In my artwork I address this prejudice and offer something new—something that is fuller and does not have an agenda for war. In my earlier work, I clipped pictures from newspapers reporting on the War on Terror. I added what I believed was missing and removed extraneous parts. By appropriating images and text, I was able to insert my voice and complicate the published story. I gradually shifted my focus from media critique to researching the history and literature of my native region. This region was known as Persia until the 20th century and included Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan among other modern countries. In 2013 I helped produce a translated book of poems to celebrate women poets from this region. Today I make art that excavates and celebrates my own experiences and I collaborate with artists and writers who express their perspectives.
My process begins with a word. I string words together to make phrases. I make visual poetry. I study printmaking techniques and experiment with different processes to produce messages that are dear to me. Making visual poetry is a liberating process because there is no limit to what I can describe. In this work words become containers for emotion. I experiment with them visually—letters become shapes and lose their meaning. The word itself and the message is important—but it is a starting point. It is important that the energy and playfulness is present in the prints.