‘I’ as a space for occurrence
This writing is resulting of the movement of a CatFish with red fins through my brain.
It is a CatFish growing up, there, in my mind. I call this writing that of someone inhabited by a CatFish because when the CatFish moves in between the cracks of my mind
its long narrow ‘moustaches’ pass through the tiny cracks of my mind very smoothly.
The moustaches touch what I have forgotten like the red door of our house, the image
of my mom’s eyes, sounds from where I am not anymore.
Read CatFish Here ︎
The Magic Border
Commisioneb by Goethe-Institut 2021
It was on a cold and rainy day in Kabul that I found myself
floating in delicate harmony with my identity, art, and life. The conflicting
aspects of my identity had at last found a balance and it had occurred just
like that, like an uninvited wind. As it rained, I watched Kabul slowly emerge from behind the thick
dust. I was sitting on the marble stairs of the Queen’s Palace staring at the
mountains. The bright colours of houses on the mountainside had turned the city
from a tired and ragged beggar to a young impatient lover.
I was among the top ten artists selected for the Afghan Art Prize
in Kabul. We were at the Queen’s Palace in the Bagh-e-Babur, or Babur's Garden to install our art works for the
exhibition. The moments were drunk with joy and satisfaction. I felt I had completed the struggle to become an artist at last. The chance that was never
given to me in Iran happened in Kabul. I thought the rest would be easier.
I found myself at peace, at rest, not knowing precisely when that moment of rest had arrived. It might have
happened in the market, surrounded by the smell of fish. Or come attached to the voice of Ahmad Zahir that reverberated in the distance, between me and an explosion. It could have
sneaked in when I was drinking my ready-made coffee sweetened with two full
spoons of sugar, listening to an art history session arranged by my friends.
I was redefined and reshaped in Kabul as if I had been melted and
poured into a different mould; a mould I worked hard to make. Although the
concept of life was in constant change, I was so comfortable with the new self
that I couldn’t fit into my previous mould in Iran - of an Iran-born Afghan refugee.
Home is a hostage, unreachable and trapped by borders on the outskirts of Mashhad in
Iran. A mere six hours away is the city of
Herat, my first encounter with Afghanistan. The first time I crossed the border into Herat, I had documents proclaiming that I was a
refugee born in Iran who lives with her family in Mashhad. A couple of days
later when I crossed the same border to go home, my
documents denied the past and proclaimed that I was an Afghan citizen, entering Iran alone on a student visa. It
seems strange now, but it was normal then.
Normal for Iran-born Afghans determined
to go to university. As refugees we were not entitled to an education, or to
employment. To study in Iran we had to give up our
refugee status in Iran leave the country, then apply for a student visa, returning
students to Iran.
This magic border reshaped and re-appropriated the family
history of thousands. After graduating from university, I stood in the line at the border again and
received a red stamp declaring my permanent exit.
Home is a cubit space outlined by four white walls. The space
carries the voice of Nana (meaning 'mother' in my
mother-tongue) waking everyone up for breakfast early in the morning before the
sun spoils the freshness hanging in the air.
The delicate balance I felt at the Queen's
Palace in Kabul was a rare moment of equilibrium in all these crossings.
on a black chair in my studio in London, I know that it is gone now.
As I write this, I get the news that the Taliban has taken control
of the border between Iran and Afghanistan/ Herat and Mashad- the same magic
border I crossed as a student. I listen
to the residents of Herat describing the situation on the social media app, Clubhouse.
Herat is under siege, the Taliban has
blocked the route to the airport. Before this, provincial capitals across the
country had been controlled one after another by the Taliban. With these
changes, hope has been fading into the
shadows - not just for the residents of Afghanistan but also for Iran-born Afghans who decided to go to
university so they could work and live with dignity in Afghanistan.
My sister is on the phone from Iran. Her wavering voice is paralysed with the question: is there any point in
continuing her studies in Iran? “Is it worth the money?”
she asks. I sense a sad subtle grin on her face when she adds: “I thought I
might be able to teach at Kabul University if I do my master’s degree here.” I
was not able to tell her that at least she is safe in Iran because I am aware
that the loss of hope can be as deadly as war.
For many of us, returning to Afghanistan was the only way out of our
predetermined fate in Iran.
For Iran-born Afghans like me who pursued their education despite
desperate financial constraints and the systematic discrimination they faced in
Iran, rebuilding Afghanistan was one of our main aspirations. Now with the Taliban gaining ground each day
in Afghanistan, the hope of returning is fading away, like the image of Kabul seen on that rainy day.
Lines of Baaboo were horizontal
Like a wavering grain field, it conjures in mirage. It has possessed my long shaking fingers now. I am called over and over again. I have become the empty content attached to the image. An image detached from any dimension. Time and space are as abstract as my gaze. However, I don’t remember when I’m drained and poured by the shaking scene. I know it is not neither present nor past. Maybe when I was drinking black tea staring at the neighbour’s pine tree, I had been possessed by a sound that doesn’t say anything.
Baaboo got lost to find his land.
One day, as usual, folding his hands behind his back he realized they were tied enough to pass the Gholshahr streets.
The mirage calls me back and insists to see him for the first time from behind when he walks. His steps are too heavy to walk on such a ragged mirage that he always starts sinking into the bottom of it.
The lines of my fingers are so vertical that his horizontal fall creates a 90 degree angle.
The shake of my fingers is a sound without voice that just occurs.
It seems that he is fated to live in the mirage from which he is constantly leaking. You are right, no one reads the Quran for an immortal Baaboo without any dimension.
*Baaboo in Hazaregi language means grandfather.