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A Conversation with Maryam Sharifi

THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi

September 30, 2021
In a conversation with Safemuse's Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography.

Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place on the island of Utøya. At the Solidarity Conference 2021, dozens of passionate youth from all over Norway gathered to discuss local and global politics, share their reflections with invited guests and meet old and new friends. On the 11th of September, Safemuse attended the conference together with Maryam Sharifi who shared her story and experiences from life as a woman and cultural activist in Afghanistan.

Life as a woman in Afghanistan

Maryam Sharifi is an afghani cultural activist and festival organiser. She grew up in a war-torn Afghanistan during the Taliban’s first reign of terror in the nineties and early 2000s. It was a time when girls were not allowed to attend school and women were denied participation in public life. Maryam and her sisters stayed at home all day to weave carpets by hand in order to help her family make a living. Although the Taliban’s loss of power in 2001 opened up to some new opportunities that Maryam previously did not have, life as a young woman continued to be challenging. Recently, with the country once again having fallen into the hands of the Taliban, Maryam is increasingly worried about the situation for girls and women in Afghanistan. “Back then it was difficult to work, but now it is impossible,” she says.

“Back then it was difficult to work, but now it is impossible.”

Maryam is concerned about the situation we see today, the future of Afghani people, and women, artists, journalists and human rights activists in particular. She describes the desperation expressed by friends and family back home whom she is in touch with. “It just makes me so sad. Many people have contacted me to ask if I can help them. I have an artist friend who had to quit painting and just stay at home.” Maryam is concerned that the situation is going to get worse. “I don’t know why so many people are referring to a so-called ‘New Taliban’ – there is nothing new about them, they have not changed, they continue to abuse journalists, persecute opponents and carry on as they want.” Although Maryam finds it difficult to see much hope for the near future of Afghanistan, she honours the many strong women and civilians who risk their lives by publicly speaking up or taking to the streets to demonstrate against the Taliban regime and the limits imposed on girls and women. 

A group hug with some of the particpants after the talk. Photo: Ortenheim Photography

A Night with Buddha

In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two world heritage listed Buddha-statues, carved into a mountainside, in Bamiyan. Twelve years later, in 2013, Maryam started the festival “A Night with Buddha” to commemorate the statues, create dialogue and raise awareness around the importance of culture, art and identity. Maryam describes the event as an attack on the identity of the people and felt it was important to oppose the mindset of the Taliban and the systematic attacks on art, artists, women and human rights. Although it was possible for a woman to organise the festival as a woman, the challenges were numerous and many groups attempted to oppose and hinder the festival from taking place.

Ethnic discrimination and power-scrambles

Maryam describes long-seated tensions and power-scramble between the four largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan. “My husband worked with Hazara-music, and so many reacted negatively to his work. They asked questions about why he was playing Hazara-music or singing in his local dialect. Our music, our faces and our dialect were haram (shame).” Hamid received many threats and was attacked on several occasions. It culminated when he was attempted run over by a car. Hamid survived, but broke his arm and was not able to play his instrument for two years.  

“Our music, our faces and our dialect were haram.”

Moving to Norway 

Maryam and her husband Hamid Sakizada were forced to leave Afghanistan when it got too dangerous to stay there. In 2013 they were able to find refuge in Harstad, a small city in the north of Norway, as part of the ICORN program. Although it has been difficult to be so far away from her family, the support from Safemuse, ICORN, the municipality of Harstad and locals has helped Mariam and Hamid to rebuild their lives in Norway.  Mariam has been able to put her experiences from Afghanistan to good use and has for the past two years been involved with the local cultural festival, “Festspillene i Nord-Norge”. 

Speak of Afghanistan

When asked by a youth participant about what young people outside Afghanistan can do to help, Maryam answers: “I always say, don’t be silent. Speak about Afghanistan. Speak of the women who don’t have the same rights as us. Speak of the children who are not allowed to go to school. The Taliban has so much power, but we need to raise our voices, and there is so much power in youth. So, I beg you, speak of Afghanistan.” 

“The Taliban has so much power, but we need to raise our voices, and there is so much power in youth. So, I beg you, speak of Afghanistan.” 

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‘Historias’ nominated to Gullsekken 2021 award Foto: Kristian Glomnes / Seanse Earlier this month, ‘Historias’ was selected as one of the nominees to the cultural award Gullsekken 2021 for the category Best Tour Production. Together with Piero Issa, Jon Tombre, Fahil Anweri, Even Børsum and Nicolai Lopez, Safemuse’s resident artist Carlos Catun (a

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About us Support us THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place on the island of

THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place o

THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place o...

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In solidarity with Afghanistan

IN SOLIDARITY WITH AFGHANISTAN

September 24, 2021
Demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Soraia Khawari

AN APPEAL FROM THE SAFEMUSE CHAIR OF THE BOARD

On Saturday 11th of September 2021, Safemuse attended a demonstration outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the political overturn and seizure of Kabul by Taliban in August. The unfolding of fear, panic, economic collapse and consequent hardships has led to a widespread concern for civilians, artists, human rights activists and a democracy under threat. Together with a large number of organisations, artists, political representatives and individuals, we gathered to mark our solidarity with Afghanistan and its people. 

Chairman of Safemuse, Anders Hovind. Photo: Bodil Diesen / CREO

Anders Hovind, the chair of the Safemuse board, made the following appeal:  

Almost four years ago, we at Safemuse helped the Afghan musician Hamid Sakhizada and his wife, as Norway’s second musician in the Cities of Refuge program, get a safe stay in Harstad. Despite a great career as a Hazara musician in his home country, he was threatened and violently harassed by religious fanatics and other groups who opposed the Hazara minority. Two of Hamid’s music students were kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban. One was killed. And so if this was four years ago, what do you think the situation is today? Pictures of destroyed cultural schools with smashed musical instruments testify that Taliban’s terror regime has not changed significantly in the last twenty years. 

Here in Norway we are used to thinking of art as decoration and entertainment, but in many other countries and especially in Afghanistan, this is a battle of life and death. Artist and filmmaker Deeyah Khan says: – If you want to understand the importance of music and art, you have to look at what oppressive regimes do: The first to get shot are artists and intellectuals. Dictators understand that art unites us, makes us rise up, is what makes us human, gives us hope and makes us feel alive. To control people, they have to get rid of art. 

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ new strategy for freedom of expression in foreign- and development politics, which was put forth this summer, provided an important signal to raise the awareness of- and the efforts for artists as human rights defenders and as activists. This work must be continued, the framework must be expanded, and the quota for receiving refugees must make room for real international solidarity. Not least when we now see the situation for musicians and artists in Afghanistan!  

Norway must also fulfill its obligations regarding the issuance of visas to artists from the south in line with the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity. Article 16 of the Convention states that artists and cultural workers from developing countries shall be given priority in the granting of visas. This article is systematically violated by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration. 

In the dramatic and acute situation that has arisen in Afghanistan, both authorities and politicians must understand that humanity is more important than opinion polls. Vulnerable groups in Afghanistan must be given a safe haven abroad and Norway must be in the driver’s seat for granting visas to Afghans whose lives are threatened. 

In Harstad, Hamid and his family have been given a safe home. He is an enrichment for Norwegian cultural life with his concerts and record releases. It is simply a shame that his people don’t get to enjoy an artist who now gets to unfold his work without fear of reprisals. On the other side: by accepting more artists like Hamid we can perhaps make our small contribution so that important cultural heritages are not lost. 

This is the time to act. The people of Afghanistan needs our active support. 

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‘Historias’ nominated to Gullsekken 2021 award Foto: Kristian Glomnes / Seanse Earlier this month, ‘Historias’ was selected as one of the nominees to the cultural award Gullsekken 2021 for the category Best Tour Production. Together with Piero Issa, Jon Tombre, Fahil Anweri, Even Børsum and Nicolai Lopez, Safemuse’s resident artist Carlos Catun (a

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A Conversation with Maryam Sharifi

About us Support us THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place on the island of

THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place o

THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place o...

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IN SOLIDARITY WITH AFGHANISTAN Demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Soraia Khawari AN APPEAL FROM THE SAFEMUSE CHAIR OF THE BOARD On Saturday 11th of September 2021, Safemuse attended a demonstration outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the political overturn and seizure of Kabul b

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About us Support us Safe Havens Global Stream November 11.-13. 2020 Julie Ofelia Østrem Ossum and Mai Khoi will perform during the conference Safe Havens Global Stream Safe Havens Conference is starting up tomorrow: Safe Havens Global Stream – with more than 150 participants from all over the world! This year the annual Safe Havens

Safe Havens Global Stream November 11.-13. 2020 Julie Ofelia Østrem Ossum and Mai Khoi will perform during the conference Safe Havens Global Stream Safe Havens Conference is starting up tomorrow: Safe Havens Global Stream – with more than 150 participants from all over the world! This year the annual Safe Havens

Safe Havens Global Stream November 11.-13. 2020 Julie Ofelia Østrem Ossum and Mai Khoi will perform during the conference Safe Havens Global Stream Safe Havens Conference is starting up tomorrow: Safe Havens Global Stream – with more than 150 participants from all over the world! This year the annual Safe Havens ...

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News Safe Residencies

Gladnyhet: En million kroner til residensordning i Oslo

Oslo Kommunes budsjettforslag 2022: En million til Safemuse residensordning

September 22, 2021
Residensartisten Mai Khoi skal spille på Cafeteatret i 2022. Foto: mai-khoi.com

EN GLEDENS DAG

I ettermiddag ble Oslo Kommunes budsjettforslag for 2022 endelig lagt frem, og gleden var stor da Safemuse mottok beskjeden om byrådets innstilling på en million kroner til etablering og drift av residensordning i Oslo for truede, forfulgte og sensurerte kunstnere, i samarbeid med Nordic Black Theatre. 

Safemuse setter kunstnerisk ytringsfrihet på dagsorden gjennom ulike prosjekter og samarbeid. Arbeidet med å etablere en fast trygg residens i Oslo har pågått over lang tid og prosjektet vil støtte opp under den frie kunsten ved å skape trygge arbeidssteder for truede og forfulgte kunstnere fra hele verden. I tillegg vil prosjektet underbygge målet om Oslo som en internasjonal by med lokal forankring og bidra til kunst- og kulturlivet lokalt og nasjonalt.

Daglig leder i Safemuse, Jan Lothe Eriksen. Foto: Even Finsrud / Musikk-Kultur

“Dette er jo helt strålende!” utbrøt Jan Lothe Eriksen, daglig leder i Safemuse, etter å ha mottatt nyheten om budsjettforslaget. “Etter flere års arbeid for å få dette til ser vi nå stor forståelse og entusiasme hos politisk ledelse i Oslo kommune for Safemuse sitt arbeid. Med dette vil vi i samarbeid med Nordic Black Theater og andre gode støttespillere gi hardt prøvede og truede kunstnere rundt i verden unike muligheter til å arbeide i fred for sensur og forfølgelse, i samarbeid med kunstnere i Oslo. Oslo-publikummets møte med disse kunstnerne vil også gi en mulighet til å skape større forståelse for betydningen av kunstnerisk ytringsfrihet og kunstens rolle i samfunnet.”

‘Historias’ nominated to Gullsekken 2021 award

About us Support us ‘Historias’ nominated to Gullsekken 2021 award Foto: Kristian Glomnes / Seanse Earlier this month, ‘Historias’ was selected as one of the nominees to the cultural award Gullsekken 2021 for the category Best Tour Production. Together with Piero Issa, Jon Tombre, Fahil Anweri, Even Børsum and Nicolai Lopez, Safemuse’s resident artist Carlos Catun (aka.

‘Historias’ nominated to Gullsekken 2021 award Foto: Kristian Glomnes / Seanse Earlier this month, ‘Historias’ was selected as one of the nominees to the cultural award Gullsekken 2021 for the category Best Tour Production. Together with Piero Issa, Jon Tombre, Fahil Anweri, Even Børsum and Nicolai Lopez, Safemuse’s resident artist Carlos Catun (a

‘Historias’ nominated to Gullsekken 2021 award Foto: Kristian Glomnes / Seanse Earlier this month, ‘Historias’ was selected as one of the nominees to the cultural award Gullsekken 2021 for the category Best Tour Production. Together with Piero Issa, Jon Tombre, Fahil Anweri, Even Børsum and Nicolai Lopez, Safemuse’s resident artist Carlos Catun (a...

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THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place o

THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 2021: A conversation with Maryam Sharifi In a conversation with Safemuse’s Akari Izumi Kvamme, Maryam Sharifi shared her experiences and reflections as an Afghani woman and cultural activist. Photo: Ortenheim Photography. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Peoples Aid Solidarity Youth’s annual conference took place o...

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About us Support us IN SOLIDARITY WITH AFGHANISTAN Demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Soraia Khawari AN APPEAL FROM THE SAFEMUSE CHAIR OF THE BOARD On Saturday 11th of September 2021, Safemuse attended a demonstration outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the political overturn and seizure of Kabul by

IN SOLIDARITY WITH AFGHANISTAN Demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Soraia Khawari AN APPEAL FROM THE SAFEMUSE CHAIR OF THE BOARD On Saturday 11th of September 2021, Safemuse attended a demonstration outside the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the political overturn and seizure of Kabul b

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About us Support us Oslo Kommunes budsjettforslag 2022: En million til Safemuse residensordning Residensartisten Mai Khoi skal spille på Cafeteatret i 2022. Foto: mai-khoi.com EN GLEDENS DAG I ettermiddag ble Oslo Kommunes budsjettforslag for 2022 endelig lagt frem, og gleden var stor da Safemuse mottok beskjeden om byrådets innstilling på en million kroner til etablering

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NEW STAFF MEMBER AT SAFEMUSE Photo: Kristoffer Archetti Stølen MEET OUR NEW TEAM MEMBER We are glad to announce that Akari Izumi Kvamme is the newest member to the Safemuse team!   Akari holds a BA in political science from the University of British Columbia in Canada and a MSc in international ...

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Announcement: New staff member in Safemuse

NEW STAFF MEMBER AT SAFEMUSE

September 21, 2021
Photo: Kristoffer Archetti Stølen

MEET OUR NEW TEAM MEMBER

We are glad to announce that Akari Izumi Kvamme is the newest member to the Safemuse team!  

Akari holds a BA in political science from the University of British Columbia in Canada and a MSc in international relations from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Her master thesis explored the nexus between international border politics, aesthetics and creative resistance. Over the years, Akari has been involved in a number of NGOs and grassroots initiatives, such as No to Nuclear Weapons Norway (Nei til Atomvåpen), ICAN Norway, Oslo World festival and the youth project Ezinne Athletics. In 2014 she co-directed the short documentary Caminando por la Habana / Walking through Havana, which was awarded a prize at Raindance Festival. Akari recently enrolled in part-time studies in film- and video art. 

Q: What does artistic freedom mean to you?

Artistic freedom enables artists to openly and freely imagine, create and share their art without fear of censorship and persecution. It is a vital freedom of expression and indispensable in building diverse and vibrant democracies. The unique contributions of artists around the world form a dynamic force that enrichens, moves and inspires society at large. Art can also provide a channel to pose important societal questions and challenge destructive norms, politics and power structures. Where artistic freedom is under threat, it must be vigorously defended and protected. I look forward to working with an organisation that actively promotes and supports artists at risk and their right to safely and freely express their art! 

Akari is entering a 80% position as an adviser in Safemuse and begun her work on the 1st of September 2021. 

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SAFE HAVENS & FREEDOM TALKS – MOVING ON Photo Credit: Fredrik Elg Safe Havens & Freedom Talks is now established as a new Swedish NGO, with Safemuse as fiscal sponsor, or step stone for the build-up of the new organization. The now well-established international conference initiative Safe Havens is moving into ...

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