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Khaled Hosseini speaks at Saratoga Reads

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Last night we had the privilege to meet Khaled Hosseini who was interviewed by Joe Dohahue at the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College. He was sponsored as a part of the Saratoga Reads program which selected And The Mountains Echoed as the book for the 10th year. A fitting selection considering that The Kite Runner had been chosen as the first book for the program.  I was pleasantly surprised at how unassuming he is.  He spoke about how he works to write noting how The Kite Runner was clamoring to be written in contrast to the more difficult writing of his next two books.

To me, Hosseini has opened many people around the world through his fiction to who the Afghan people are, bringing into our livingrooms the characters in his stories which represent real people and situations in Afghanistan.  He spoke of being hopeful after the elections that took place yesterday.  Reports are that over 60% of the population turned out to vote even with the threat of death and destruction from the Taliban.

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My husband and I waited to get books signed after he spoke. In my excitement of meeting him and giving him one of my business cards mentioning that I have traveled to Afghanistan and hope to return I forgot that I was going to give him my blue Borderfree scarf from the Afghan Peace Volunteers.  http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/borderfree/

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As these Afghan youth work for peace in their journey to smile they have created blue scarfs with ‘borderfree’ in English and ‘bedun-e-marz’ which is ‘without borders’ in Dari. In their words, “Borderfree is our collective wish as a human family to relate and work with one another in solidarity under the same blue sky, organizing ourselves as a strong 99%, free of borders so as to take care of our earth, build socio-economic equality for all, and abolish war.”   http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/borderfree/  I had purchased the scarf from Kathy Kelly from Voices of Creative Nonviolence  http://vcnv.org  when she was recently here in Albany.  Both my husband and friends encouraged me to go back up and give him the scarf…so I did. From the brief description I shared, he was touched and said he would treasure it.  So a bit of Afghanistan has now gone full circle and returned to one of Afghanistan’s own.

It was a humbling experience to let the Afghan Peace Volunteers voice be heard in this setting.

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Presentation

Afghanistan_Connie_Frisbee_Houde_IDinner at Istanblue and a
Movie at Saratoga Film Forum

Sunday, March 30th

Make it a date night!

Saratoga Reads presents View from a Grain of Sand
A film by Meena Nanji USA
Documentary: 58 minutes, 2006

Sunday, March 30 at the Saratoga Film Fourm
320 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY

Three Afghan women tell how international interventions, war, and the rise of political Islam, has stripped Afghan women of basic rights.

AWARD: Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary Silver Conch, International Documentary Feature 2008
AWARD: Canada International Film Festival Best Documentary 2007
AWARD: Seattle South Asian Festival Audience Award, Best Feature Documentary 2007

Tickets: $5 for Saratoga Film Forum members, $7 non-members

Pre-screening presentation with photojournalist Connie Frisbee Houde begins at 7:30 PM. Houde traveled to Afghanistan five times between 2003-2010 and will share her Afghan images and experiences with the audience.

View From A Grain Of Sand Official Site
Pre-Movie Dinner at Istanblue Mediterranean Cusine
68 Congress St.(Congress Plaza)
Saratoga Springs, NY

Chef Emrah has prepared a Prix Fixe Menu for this event- $35 per person (value $50) includes:
Appetizer platter: hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, pita, stuffed grape leaves
Choice of entrée: Moussaka, chicken or lamb Adana, Vegetable sauté
Choice of Turkish coffee or dessert (Kadayif).

Make reservations 48 hrs prior to event (581-0181), mention and “Saratoga Reads” to get our special Prix Fixe menu.

Please note: Istanblue Restaurant has No liquor license; You may bring your own, corkage fee applies.

Bring book clubs, family, friends and savor foods
from the regions in our documentary.

http://www.SaratogaReads.org

Exhibit Saratoga Art Center February and March

Shahr-e-Nau Park, Kabul, Afghanistan 2003

Shahr-e-Nau Park, Kabul, Afghanistan 2003

Since we have been having a number of winter snow storms, I thought that this image from my first visit to Afghanistan in February of 2003 would be appropriate.  It brings back fond memories of how safe I felt when I finally ventured out of our guest house door on my own discovering the city in the beauty of a covering of snow.  I don’t think the locals would have seen it that way as they were shoveling the heavy snow off the flat roofs that couldn’t hold the weight much less the dripping of the wet through the not so sound roofs.

I also remember how worried I was for my husband who was in New York City protesting going to war in Iraq.  There I was in Kabul worrying about his safety in New York. How Ironic?

If you would like to see this image and others from my five trips to Afghanistan beginning with the trip in 2003 and my last trip in 2010, they can be seen at the Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, saratoga Springs, New York.  They will be on display the Month of February and March. The gallery hours are: 9am – 5pm M-F, Saturday 11am – 5pm, and when the Film Forum is operating. Please check the Film Forum schedule.  http://www.saratogafilmforum.org

Shah-e-Doh Shamahira Mosque or "The Mosque of the King of Two Swords" was built in the 1920's during Amanullah's rule and drive for modernization.

Shah-e-Doh Shamahira Mosque or “The Mosque of the King of Two Swords” was built in the 1920′s during Amanullah’s rule and drive for modernization.

I also will be showing a multi media show of more work when the Film Forum will be showing A View From a Grain of Sand March 30th 7:30pm. I will also facilitate a discussion of the film after the showing.

These activities are taking place because Saratoga Reads is celebrating its 10th year with the reading of Khaled Hosseini’s third book And the Mountains Echoed.  The first year the Kite Runner had been chosen at that time I participated in a multiple week program for the Academy for Lifelong Learning.  A memorable experience because my step-son was severely injured in Iraq the day before I was to present. I decided to continue and learned in the middle of my presentation that his vital signs had improved after multiple surgeries and 52 units of blood and he would be coming home.  Ten years later Matt is very much alive and has become a physical therapist for the navy.  He is one of the lucky ones who has made a life for himself.  This year I will also be presenting for the first session of Revisiting Afghanistan a program being presented to the Academy for Lifelong Learning. http://www.esc.edu/media/esc-foundation/all/ALL-Spring-2014-Brochure.pdf

Orphan 2003. As a result of 30 years of war, there are many orphanages in Afghanistan filled with children, many who have no parents or have been placed in the orphanage by a widowed mother who can't take care of them. With few jobs a valuable to women, they often have no other recourse.

Orphan 2003. As a result of 30 years of war, there are many orphanages in Afghanistan filled with children, many who have no parents or have been placed in the orphanage by a widowed mother who can’t take care of them. With few jobs a valuable to women, they often have no other recourse.

So you can see I continue to speak and present concerning Afghanistan.  I do hope that you will have a chance to see the exhibit or come to one of the programs.

Afghan Youth Orchestra in Carnegie Hall

Tuesday last week I traveled from Albany to New York City to see/hear the Afghan Youth Orchestra with two young Afghans and their Mother/caretaker while they are in the US going to school. We arrived found parking and wondered around Times Square until it was time to attend the concert.  All of us had been anticipating this day since we had decided to come.

Lynne, Qil, and Marsella on Times Square.

Lynne, Aqil, and Mursal on Times Square.

The story of the Orchestra is remarkable. As the Minister of Education His Excellency Faroq Wardak stated, “Music is in our past, our present and our future.” One of the tragedy’s of Afghan history was the destruction of all musical instruments and means of playing music by the Taliban who mistakenly believe that music is unIslamic. Dr. Ahman Sarmast who had emigrated to Australia began a systematic revival of Afghan Music returning to Kabul to develop the The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM).  The school located in Kabul is “committed to providing a dynamic, challenging, and safe learning environment for all students, regardless of gender , ethnicity, or social circumstances. ANIM focusses on supporting the most disadvantaged group in Afghan society — the orphans and street-working children– by helping them attain a vocation that will allow them to reach their full potential, while contributing to their emotional health.”

The concert was two days before Valentines days so it was interesting attempting to describe the holiday and all the roses in the flower markets and heart decorations.

Valentines Day decorations.

Valentines Day decorations.

As we waited for the concert to begin we made contact with a women sitting behind us who had taught William Harvey the conductor who had been a Juilliard student. The concert began with a number of very traditional Afghan Folk tunes played by a number of the Afghan traditional stringed instruments. These students set on low carpet-covered platforms playing in the traditional style featuring both girls and boys.

The traditional instrument ensemble.

The traditional instrument ensemble.

Aqil, who I sat next to, recited the words to the tunes as I asked what the meaning was of the music. The first was a love song for Afghanistan and the second a love song for a woman.  The instruments ranged from the sitar in the center, rubab on the left, tabla (percussion) behind, ghichak on the right, and sarod, tanbur and dilruba in between.  I was told by both the young Afghans that there was one instrument not represented.

The two remarkable pieces that they played were Ravel’s Bolero and an adaptation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, The Four Seasons of Afghanistan.  It really was sweet to read the notes and realize just how much of the culture I have absorbed through the years and the depth of the four seasons.

Here is the New York Times review of the concert.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/arts/music/afghan-ensembles-at-carnegie-hall.html?_r=0

Taking the final bow.

Taking the final bow.

After the concert, Aqil and Mursal wanted to met the Afghan students so we found our way to the back stage door and waited. Aqil dressed in traditional Afghan dress was often mistaken for one of the orchestra.  Please if you wish to know more about the Afghan youth orchestra and their journey and hear some of their music follow the following videos:

Ravel’s Bolero

Here is the ending piece for peace that they also played as an encore.

I do hope that you enjoy the gift these young musicians share with us.

Dreaming of Peace for these young people,

Connie

West Africa Journey Interview

On Tuesday I was Interviewed by Ann Parillo on Schenectady Today.  This a very short snippet of what is to come  in the upcoming exhibition:

Debunking the Myth of Voodoo and Slavery-

A Journey in West Africa

January 24 – March 15, 2013
(during library hours)
 
Artist Talk and Opening Reception:
Thursday, January 24 – 5-8 p.m.
Yates Gallery in the Standish Library
Artist Talk will begin in room L26 (lower level) at 6:00p.m.
with reception to follow upstairs in the gallery.

Siena College

515 Loudon Road, Loudonville, NY 12211 – http://www.siena.edu/yates
Sergio Sericolo, Curator – ssericolo@siena.edu – 518-783-2435

More information concerning the exhibit will be in another post.

Afghan Portraits: Windows of the Soul

Dear Friends,

Many of you have mentioned that you are waiting to see some of my new work from the trip to West Africa. I will give a general overview of the trip in my next post for now I would like to share with you a current exhibit I set up just before I left for West Africa and will continue into the beginning of November.

Afghan Portraits:   Windows to the Soul

Hudson Valley Community College Library,  Troy, New York

September 1, 2012 – November 9, 2012

 A link to the library hours.   https://www.hvcc.edu/learning-commons/hours.html

New cafe area at the library showing the exhibit.

 Afghan Women Speak

 

Soraya speaking about the plight of the Afghan woman.

Fall 2012 Voices, A Library Lecture Series

Hudson Valley Community College

Bulmer Telecommunications Center Auditorium

Thursday, November 8  Noon – 12:50 p.m.

 Connie Frisbee Houde, a photojournalist who has traveled deep into the heart of Afghanistan, will share images that give voice to Afghan women. In her audiovisual presentation will depict the realities of Afghan life as the women attempt to keep alive their autonomy, culture and community.  The poignant beauty of Afghanistan and the strength of its own women will be evident.

News Update!

Dear Friends,

I seem to tell myself that I am going to make entries on a more regular basis and then time passes. Now I will catch you up, dear readers, with my latest activities.

First during from September 22 to October 28th I have had 50 images at The Basset Gallery at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, a wonderful gallery in Camden, South Carolina. I was chosen to open their season. My husband and I packed up our Prius and Drove stoping to see my Afghan American friend Fahima Vorgetts on the way catching up on her most recent visit to Afghanistan and a followup to Mir Taqui Shah where  together with Women Against War supported the construction of a clean drinking water and irrigation well (see a previous blog entry and more will follow).

As you enter the gallery.

One wall contained images dedicated to Tom Little, who was killed August 5, 2010, and his work for the National Organization for Opthalmic Rehabilitation.

Images of NOOR and Tom Little.

To give some additional ambiance to a sense of Afghanistan I included some dressed dolls and handcrafts made by Afghan women.

A section concerning women.

While I was in Camden I spoke at 5 different schools both middle and High school classes.

Camden High School entrance.

I talked of the culture and the people and my work sharing numbers of my images. The students expressed interest and asked many questions.

Stover Middle School

Camden Middle School showing the students a burka.

Back in Albany I went straight to editing and printing for an exhibition of images from Ghana Good Morning Teacher at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 85 Chestnut Street, Albany, NY. These 41 photos will be on display for the African Family Night, Saturday November 5th from 5 to 8:30.  This is a fundraiser for the African projects that the church supports and there will be a diner of delicious African food. Please contact the church for more information at info@wpcalbany.org.

Opening panel.

Since all my frames where used for the exhibition in South Carolina, I decided to use Rare Earth Magnets and steel tacks to hang the unframed prints, which I think worked quite well for what has been basically a two night show.

The beautiful expressive children.

For the Albany first Friday event the church provided two wonderful musicians.

The next project was working with Women Against War Afghan Committee’s effort to draw attention to the continuation of the occupation of Afghanistan by bringing to the Capital District area an exhibition Windows and Mirrors. In 2009, the American Friends Service Committee seeking contributions for a traveling memorial to Afghan civilians who have died in the war. This community exhibit is a selection of 25 installations of the originals. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in U.S history, yet for many of us it has been rendered largely invisible. This exhibition is an opening and an invitation to reflect upon the impact of this war on a civilian population caught in the crossfire. For details of the event surrounding these powerful banners check http://www.womenagainstwar.org.  We held a press conference to introduce the banners to the public.

The press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

This weekend the banners were at the Opalka gallery.

The Opalka Gallery

On October 25 a Peace rally  1oth Anniversary of the US War in Afghanistan. How is the War Economy Working For you?  I read a poem of Nadai Anjumon an Afghan women poet concerning the plight of Afghan women which has not changed and in some areas is the worst that it has been for some time.

Maureen Aumand leading the Grannies for Peace procession.

Grannies for Peace procession.

We were also blessed to have Congressmen Paul Tonko speak and support the effort to end the War in Afghanistan and bring our Troops home.

Congressman Tonko speaking against the War in Afghansitan.

As a last comment I wish to tank my husband who has supported my incredibly involved life and who feeds me both my heart and my belly in between all these events.

Frank Houd and David Easter.

And my dear friend if you have made it to the end of this post I thank you.  Please look for a future entry concerning the progress in the village in Afghanistan which we support and I hope we can continue to support as well as my next exhibit in Elmira, New York in November – Afghan Portraits: Windows to the Soul.

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