painting by Thaira Al Mayahy

painting by Thaira Al Mayahy

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HER STORY IS

Her Story Is supports artistic conversations, exchanges and creation among female artists in the United States and Iraq, culminating in performances and exhibits in Massachusetts and Iraq.

Her Story Is artist Lillie Paquette created this video about the project’s weeklong workshop in Dubai in 2017.

An ongoing project, Her Story Is focuses on empowering women’s voices. As an initiative to support, strengthen, and expand relationships between women artists in Iraq and the Boston area, it continues work begun in the Basra-Boston Project, as well as previous collaborations between Fort Point Theatre Channel and Iraqi artists.

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.

Visual artist Thaira al-Mayyahi (left) and Elham al-Zabaedy led a  Her Story Is  event in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, spring 2019

Visual artist Thaira al-Mayyahi (left) and Elham al-Zabaedy led a Her Story Is event in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, spring 2019

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 and Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed and facilitator 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 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.

Coming Up

The first night in Dubai (l-r): Jennifer Jean, Nadia Sekran, Dina Fadil, Anne Loyer, Amy Merrill, Lillie Paquette, Thaira Mayyahi, Elham Nasser al-Zabeedy, Mary Mohsen; photo courtesy of Amy Merrill

The first night in Dubai (l-r): Jennifer Jean, Nadia Sekran, Dina Fadil, Anne Loyer, Amy Merrill, Lillie Paquette, Thaira Mayyahi, Elham Nasser al-Zabeedy, Mary Mohsen; photo courtesy of Amy Merrill

In 2020, with funding from Mass Humanities, Her Story Is will present a panel discussion 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.

Over the coming year, Her Story Is also will present panel discussions in Basra and Mosul, as well as other events in the United States and Iraq. In addition, Her Story Is poets and playwrights will contribute to published anthologies.

About Her Story Is

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.

Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed

Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed

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.

Poets Jennifer Jean and Mitch Manning at the launch of “Unpacking Iraq,” a special issue of  Consequence  magazine ,  May 2019

Poets Jennifer Jean and Mitch Manning at the launch of “Unpacking Iraq,” a special issue of Consequence magazine, May 2019

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.

Her Story Is  panel in Basra, Iraq, May 2019, including project team members Elham al-Zabaedy (second from right) and Amir Al-Azraki (for right).

Her Story Is panel in Basra, Iraq, May 2019, including project team members Elham al-Zabaedy (second from right) and Amir Al-Azraki (for right).

May 2019: Poems by Hana’ Ahmed Mohammed, Jennifer Jean, and Elham Nasser al-Zabeedy in “Unpacking Iraq,” a special issue of Consequence magazine

Spring 2019: Poems co-translated by Jennifer Jean and Amir Al-Azraki for the Her Story Is poetry anthology in The Common, along with a translator’s note

"The Diary of a Fugitive Drop of Tea"

Hana' Ahmed Mohammed produced this video-poem for an October 2018 Her Story Is event on translation at the University of Basra in Iraq. The poem is by Hana' Ahmed Mohammed, translated from Arabic into English by Mahmoud Nowara and Julia Gettle, and read in English by Jennifer Jean.

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 and Autobiography Workshop, 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.

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