HER STORY IS
HER STORY IS, a collective led by independent women writers and artists from the US and Iraq, promotes projects aimed at expanding linguistic, artistic, and cultural boundaries in response to global conflict and its aftermath, with a focus on centralizing the experience of women. Founded in 2010, HER STORY IS produces exhibitions, anthologies, scholarly articles, panel discussions, theater productions, and a semi-annual residency in the Middle East. We believe our process transforms established power structures, creates new grounds for learning, and builds a community of equals across borders.
Her Story Is focuses on empowering women’s voices. It is a continuation of work begun by the Basra-Boston Project and previous collaborations between Fort Point Theatre Channel.
Her Story Is, 2019-2020:
Focus on Writing and Translation
POETRY: Her Story Is Boston team member Jennifer Jean is working with Amir Al-Azraki, one of the cofounders of Her Story Is, to coordinate a bilingual anthology of poetry by women writers from over a dozen Arabic nations in conflict. Iraqi project member Elham Nasser al-Zabeedy, Jackleen Hanna, and Rasha Fadhil assisted in selecting the poems. Jean and award-winning poet Kirun Kapur (among others) will be co-translating the poems with Al-Azraki.
The Her Story Is poetry team, like the playwrighting group, is working toward bringing together Iraqi and American poets—virtually and in person—to exchange work, discuss craft, and create new poems. The goal is to build a path toward dialogue and reconciliation between the citizens of both countries.
PLAYWRIGHTING: Boston playwrights and Her Story Is team members Amy Merrill and Ana Candida Carneiro are working with Iraqi poets Elham Nasser al-Zabeedy, Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed, and others, with the assistance of facilitators/translators Nadia Sekran and Noor Altaee, on an initiative that pairs female writers from both countries to discuss craft and write short plays. The goals are to promote playwriting in Iraq and to use playmaking projects to build a path toward dialogue and reconciliation between the citizens of both countries.
Her Story Is also has begun a partnership with Prof. Samir Talib, chair, Department of English, University of Basra. In fall 2019, Carneiro and Talib will lead a joint Playwriting 1 course with students at Amherst College and University of Basra.
"Finding a Common Language: Iraqi and US Women Seek Reconciliation in Dubai," by Nadia Abdulridha Sakran AlEsi, graphic by Thaira al-Mayyahi, introduction by Amy Merrill, Journal of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3 (November 2019).
In 2020, with funding from Mass Humanities, Her Story Is will present a panel discussion, led by Jennifer Jean, at which poets and playwrights share their experiences working cross-culturally through translators on scholarly and creative projects. In addition, scholars on the panel will use feminist methodologies to explore questions regarding the challenge of translating across culture, conflict, and geography and the value of building connections and collaboratively developing literature among women from former enemy nations. This event will be free and open to the public.
Ongoing: Over the coming year, Her Story Is will present panel discussions and engage in translating and publishing activities in Iraq and the United States.
About Her Story Is
Her Story Is is the latest in a series of collaborations and exchanges, begun in 2010 by playwright Amir Al Azraki and artist Anne Loyer, that have brought together artists and scholars from the United States, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East.
In fall 2017, four U.S. women artists and four Iraqi women artists began communicating via Skype, email, and blogging about their art, their lives, and the relation of their art and lives to their countries and the world. The artists included Jennifer Jean, Anne Loyer, Amy Merrill, Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed, Mary Mohsen, Thaira Al Mayyahi, Lillie Paquette, and Elham Nasser Al Zabeedy. The workshop and exchanges were supported by the creative contributions and translation of scholar and writer Nadia Sekran, playwright Amir Al Azraki, and filmmaker Dina Fadil.
That December, seven of these artists and three translators met in Dubai, a location accessible to all. Over five days, each participant offered a workshop and told her personal story. At this face-to-face encounter among women from two countries divided by war and geography, the participants laughed and cried a lot. All felt that the face-to-face meetings and the experience of discovering common and divergent experiences, was an invaluable step in building new relationships as individuals and artists between two countries separated by war and geography.
After the artists and coordinators left Dubai, they reaffirmed their commitment to continuing the relationships and laying the groundwork for a series of collaborative projects in both countries. Since then, teams creating specific works have met regularly. Women artists in both countries have continued to participate via emails, Facebook posts, Skype and What’s App calls. They have prepared public exhibits and performances, undertaken new initiatives, and engaged in other projects growing out of the collaborative work.
Past Events in Iraq and the United States
Spring 2019: Multiple Her Story Is events in Iraq in Basra, Mosul, and Suleimaniyah. Elham Nasser al-Zabaedy, director of Lotus Cultural League (the main Her Story Is organizing partner in Iraq), led a series of events in Sulaymaniyah and Basra. She and Thaira al-Mayahy participated in a Culture and Dialogue workshop, involving participants from all eight religions in Iraq. At the Joudy Gallery, Al Zabaedy and Al Mayahy made presentations based on their experience at the Her Story Is workshop in Dubai in 2017, leading women at the gallery in a workshop to share their own stories. Al-Zabaedy and Al Mayahy led a similar workshop at the Folklore Gallery in Sulaymaniyah.
February 2019: Her Story Is Translated, a public presentation in Boston, featuring a poetry reading, a report on Her Story Is events in Iraq, and a report about the Her Story Is playwrights’ initiative
Winter 2018-2019: Poem co-translated by Jennifer Jean and Amir Al-Azraki for Her Story Is poetry anthology appear in Talking Writing Magazine
October 2018: Translation event led by Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed, University of Mosul, fall 2018.
June 2018: Art Exhibit and Presentations: Atlantic Wharf, Boston, Massachusetts, and Arts at the Armory, Somerville, Massachusetts
June 2018: Legislative Theater Workshop: “Saving the Joiner,” William Joiner Institute, University of Massachusetts, Boston
May 2018: Presentations at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Salem, Massachusetts
March 2018: Writing Workshop in Iraq in collaboration with the Lotus Women’s Cultural League and Basra University, Basra Iraq
February 2018: Radio Al Rasheed Interview, Basra, Iraq
January 2018: Life writing workshop, led by scholar/translator Nadia Sekran with Elham Nasser al-Zabaedy, Basra, Iraq
December 2017: Her Story Is five-day workshop, Dubai, Arab Emirates
HER STORY IS: PARTNERS AND SPONSORS
Her Story Is continues a series of ongoing collaborations of Fort Point Theatre Channel with a number of partners and sponsors in Iraq and the United States. Partners have included UMass Boston’s Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences, the University of Basra, the Center for Arabic Culture, the Odysseus Project, playwright Amir Al-Azraki, and the Lotus Women’s Cultural League. Project support has come from Boston Properties/Atlantic Wharf, the South Boston Community Development Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Boston Cultural Council, among others.
For 2019-2020, Her Story Is is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.