UNDER THE STARRY AFGHAN SKY collective
‘Ay Kash / ای کاش / If Only’
A creative theatre / art / activism project with young women in Afghanistan evolved out of the work of HERAT ONLINE SCHOOL.
Facilitated by Rachel Karafistan, Cosmino Productions www.cosmino.org
INSTAGRAM: @underthestarryafghansky / @cosminoproductions / @herat_school
With our hearts full of hope and desire.
With tears in our eyes and trembling legs, with no way to escape.
We are sitting in our bedrooms in Afghanistan and slowly dying.
Every time we rise to show ourselves, our legs are showered with bullets.
Eleven girls who only ask to be allowed to study, to travel, to let our hair fly in the wind and,
from all the riches in this world, own a bicycle.
Is it too much to ask?
Is it too much if I want to become a psychologist? Or a painter?
Too much if I want to fall in love and have my heart broken?
Too much if I prefer freedom over longing?
What if my hair turns grey, and my lips are never kissed?
We never wanted our share of the sky to simply be able to gaze at the moon
from our bedroom windows.
I want to swim in the sky. Do I want too much?
Eleven brave warriors,
standing against the Taliban’s oppression with our pens, art, poetry, and music.
Ay Kash is the voice of a nation sleeping in blood,
the voice of a wounded geography.
Don’t let our desire to swim in the sky, rot in our hearts.
Don't let the desire to take hold of our pen and fight, disappear.
More than a year has passed since the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and left the country at the mercy of the Taliban. Within days women and girls found themselves without access to education beyond the 6th grade. The right of women to work is restricted, they cannot visit parks and they are unable to leave their homes without being covered and chaperoned by a male family member. In December 2022, all women lost access to university education. Soon girls and women will disappear from all public life.
In short, life as girls and women knew it, just over a year ago, has been transformed. They have lost all hope.
Under the Starry Afghan Sky are eleven young women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The collective evolved out of the work of Herat Online School founded by the education activist, Angela Ghayour who herself fled Afghanistan in 1992 and facilitated by Rachel Karafistan of Cosmino Productions.
‘Ay Kash / ای کاش / If Only’ is a theatre, art and activism performance / exhibition featuring their artwork, films, poetry, and stories, coming to English Theatre Berlin, Graumaleri, Mutter Fourage Kulturscheune, OYOUN and Little Window Gallery, Berlin in September 2023, and then available for touring worldwide. Everywhere we go, we hope to raise awareness and achieve a deeper understanding of the lives and desperate plight of girls and women in Afghanistan. Only this time audiences will hear about them not from news reports and journalists but directly from the young women themselves, in their own uncensored words.
Background to the collaboration with Cosmino Productions:
Since May 2022 I have been working as a volunteer for Herat Online School, founded by the inspirational teacher and educational activist, Angela Ghayour who fled Afghanistan as a young girl in 1992. As one of many volunteers providing English lessons online to young women located in Kabul and Herat, I have been humbled by their resilience, tenacity and hunger for life and learning. It became clear to me that as an artist and theatre maker, there was something more that I could do for these young women than merely correct their grammar.
We began meeting on a weekly basis, with a new creative focus; telling and writing stories, practising meditation, drawing from prompts, singing songs together, playing silly games and animating objects. It is with these tools of theatre that I have practised myself for over 25 years, that I plan to bring the voices of these young women out of their ‘prison’ in Afghanistan and into theatres all over the world. As Cosmino Productions, we will devise a hybrid performance featuring live on-stage action and direct online ‘interaction’ with the young women in Afghanistan. Their true identities will remain hidden because it is simply too dangerous to do otherwise, but the things they want to tell you will be given life and poetic space. And they want to tell you many things: their personal stories, the stories of their mothers, their grandmothers and their hopes and dreams for the future. All this and more will burst into life with the help of song, object theatre, storytelling, and the internet.
What will your money fund? :
- set, props, costume, and technical essentials for the production
- curating a touring exhibition of artwork and texts generated for the project.
- printing postcards of the work for sale.
- a simple website to accompany the project
- a publication available for purchase documenting the project (all proceeds will go towards further development of the creative work of the young women)
- publicity and marketing for the project (posters / flyers)
- donation to Herat Online School to continue their important work with the young women and girls deprived of access to any education.
Please give generously, so the world may hear the voices of these incredible young women and move them closer to securing both their education and their freedom.