Their names – Akbara, Doostizadah, Danesh and Hazara – were alien to my tongue. One or two I could barely pronounce let alone remember, but I will – in time. Their names were spoken, part-thereof, from the rear of their tongues where pockets of air seemed to surround the vowels in a hollow space rendering them deeper and more rounder in tone than the nasal utterances of many of my fellow Australians.
They came ready made – confident, purposeful and deeply commited to their community and the betterment of their peoples in Afghanistan. They’re also grateful for the opportunities afforded them here describing themselves as the first generation to receive an education for decades. They are the Hazara’s who sought asylum in Australia and were granted citizenship. They are, as they themselves describe, the privelaged ones and they aren’t taking those privelages forgranted.
The Hazara are a the most neglected and persecuted of minorities in Afghanistan. They originate from the centre of the country with strong Mongolian heritage generally said to be defined by their sharp eyes and high cheek-bones. They have suffered persecution and encroachment on to their lands for centuries no more so than during the reign of the Taliban.
It is claimed the Taliban destroyed the The Buddhas of Bamiyan to remove evidence of the origins of the Hazara who pre-date the arrival of Islam. In an Aljazeera report on the plight of the Hazaras a tribal elder despaired, “…we spent every moment thinking the Taliban might kill us. But the Taliban came and killed selectively. This goverment is killing us all slowly by starving us.”
It’s bound to be a deeply moving experience working with this community. There is much to learn from them and much to be done. We’re going to make a film or two together, a series in fact, and a lot more in-between.
After discussing their origins and how they came to be in Australia, one in fact arrived by boat, and a look at the content being produced by the Afghanistan based Afghan Voices, we discussed a range of themes they would be interested in covering.
The concept will see the joint production of a micro-docs series conceived of and produced both in Melbourne and with Afghan communities across the world, those with whom our team may already be in touch with. Of general interest were the following subjects:
Youth Identity: how does one maintain identity when removed from one’s home land?
Social Life: comparing life of Hazara’s in Australia to that of the lives of their friends and family in their home lands.
The Developing Role of Women: women in Afghanistan are more active in political, social and intellectual life than women in Australia. Why?
Migration: What drives Hazara and other refugees to come here?
Certainly a confident and well considered place to be starting from.
I was surprised to find that two of our Hazara friends had already produced video for Pakistan television. They’ve access to a reasonably good camera and have taught themselves to edit. They’re adept at social networking, using Facebook to organise their events and activities.
Their creating websites for themselves and their various community activities and with the latter, indeed, very active participants and mobilisers across the country and internationally.
Refining those skills and broadening their capacities for communication within the visual arts, from the photo essay to stop frame animation, from performance installations to observational cinema, it will be a most fascinating and challenging year or so ahead.