Journeys to the Edge photography exhibit in Haida Gwaii

Haida-Gwaii.totem.PolesThis spring, Journeys to the Edge co-founder Tallulah travelled to Haida Gwaii in northern British Columbia to mount a photography exhibit. The event showcased photos from around the world that Tallulah has captured in her reporting travels with Roberta Staley to places like Haiti, Colombia, Soweto and Afghanistan.

The trip to Haida Gwaii was undertaken in large part to connect people living in areas like Haida Gwaii — where isolation can preclude access to artistic endeavours, shows and exhibits — with those from areas few have access to, such as Haiti or Afghanistan. As well, the trip was the chance for Tallulah to discover new individuals to photograph to include in her remarkable World People Project photography initiative.

The Haida Gwaii Observer did a write-up on Tallulah, Journeys to the Edge and the World People Project in early March, and we have included it here: Haida Gwaii Observer interviews Tallulah.






Afghan-Canadians Condemn the Taliban and Celebrate their Nation’s Election

7571Leila, a Langara College student, attended the anti-Taliban rally in Vancouver.

More than 75 Afghan-Canadians gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 6 to condemn Taliban terrorists who—despite threats of violence—were unable to derail Afghanistan’s historic national election, held April 5. “I felt like a kid on Christmas day,” said 22-year-old Hamid, one of Afghanistan’s diaspora who watched the elections on television with his mother. “It’s very, very cool.”
Small children sat on the grey, stone steps of the Vancouver gallery, holding signs directed at the Taliban such as, “Enough! Stop Killing!” while their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers listened to members of Vancouver’s Afghan community condemn Taliban insurgencies.
In the run-up to the election, the Taliban stepped up its attacks in Afghanistan, targeting such landmarks as La Taverna du Liban, a famous Lebanese restaurant in the capital of Kabul. Two Canadians died in the attack that killed more than 20 people. Days before the April 5 election, another attack wounded Canadian AP journalist Kathy Gannon and left Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus dead. North Vancouver optometrist Roshan Thomas, who created the Sparks Academy in Afghanistan for girls and boys, was also killed, along with Calgary nurse Zeenab Kassam, in an earlier Taliban attack at Kubul’s luxury Serena Hotel.
“The recent killings were a shock to the world,” Afghan-Canadian Mustafa Delsoz told the Vancouver crowd. “We show solidarity with those who have passed away.”
Lauryn Oates, the projects director for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which has established schools, teacher-training and gender equality programs in the Central Asian nation, also spoke at the rally. The Taliban’s sole “goal is the surplus of violence. They are against modernity, civilization and human rights,” Oates said.
Oates declared the April 5 election “a triumph that is unparalleled.” Twelve million Afghans were eligible to vote, and the turn out was estimated at about 60 percent—double the number who voted in the last national election. Many millions of women cast their ballot, a momentous step forward in a nation where fundamentalist Islamic edicts set forth by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 reign stripped women of any rights. Mr. Parwani, who organized the anti-Taliban protest, added that the increase in women voters communicated a definitive “ ‘no’ to terrorism.”
Leila, a 26-year-old Afghan-Canadian nursing student, was thrilled by the elections. “It’s so exciting, I wish I was there to be a part of it.”
Pundits are saying that a clear winner will be unlikely to emerge from the April 5 elections, thus requiring a runoff election in the near future.
DSC_7584Children in Afghanistan are often the victims of Taliban violence, a tragic legacy that Afghan-Canadian youngsters are acutely aware of.
27634Lauryn Oates, projects director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, says that, for the Taliban, violence is an end in itself.
7619The Taliban are especially brutal towards Afghan women.
DSC_7563Afghan-Canadian children participated in the April 6 rally to protest widespread Taliban violence.
7603Sabit Mirzad (left) and Wali Sarwari are Afghan-Candadian students who have high hopes for Afghanistan’s future following the success of the democratic national elections April 5.

Farewell to Nelson Mandela – Peacemaker

Several years ago, the Journeys to the Edge team of Roberta Staley and Tallulah Photography travelled to Soweto, South Africa to report upon the efforts of a palliative care organization that supported slum dwellers who were suffering HIV-AIDS alone, immobilized and unable to feed themselves or travel to obtain their antiretroviral drugs.

Soweto, which was the heart of the anti-apartheid movement, is also the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, which killed 1.7 million people in 2011 alone, and has killed about 35 million since 1981, when statistics were first compiled.

In 1981, Nelson Mandela, also known by his Xhosa clan name ‘Madiba,’ was still behind bars in his prison cell on Robben Island. But the tide was turning against the apartheid regime that imprisoned him in 1964. International pressure helped secure Mandela’s release in 1990 and Mandela, who became president in 1994, dismantled apartheid.

One of the places that Journeys to the Edge visited was Regina Mundi Church, which held a rousing and moving memorial service for Mandela on Dec. 8. If Soweto was the heart of the antiapartheid movement, then Regina Mundi Catholic Church was the centre of its heart. Within the embrace of its red brick walls, touched by rays of yellow, white and pale blue streaming through simple stain glassed windows, anti-apartheid activists would communicate their clandestine plans by signing the time and location of covert meetings. The church was the only place that people could assemble without fear of arrest for breaking a state edict forbidding gatherings of three or more people.

We were all touched by Mandela’s remarkable statesmanship. His legacy is one that—we hope—will endure, for it was founded on love, forgiveness and the courage to live a moral and ethical life.

Peace and healing to the people of South Africa. Rest in peace Madiba.


Media Democracy Days Media Fair

Journeys to the Edge is attending this year’s Media Democracy Days Media Fair, Saturday, November 9th 2013.

Come visit our table and talk to us about our exciting plans for 2014. The Media Fair will run from noon to 5 p.m. at the Vancouver Public Library Promenade.

Journeys to the Edge is thrilled to announce that Sahar Fetrat of Kabul, Afghanistan has been accepted into the Digital Film Production course at Langara College in Vancouver. We are now in the process of raising funds for her to pay for tuition and travel and living expenses.

Journeys to the Edge is also starting preliminary work on a documentary about the amazing work of Afghan-Canadian cardiologist Dr. Asmatullah Naekbhil of Windsor, Ont.. He has opened a cardiac centre and we are planning to return to Kabul, Afghanistan next year to create a documentary about his work helping the thousands of Afghans who suffer from heart disease.


Dr. Asmatullah Naebkhil and staff, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Elay Ershad – MP


DSC_4998swAfghanistan MP Elay Ershad looks out upon the elegant gathering of men and women under starry skies on the open-air terrace of Kabul’s Park Star Hotel. Two years into her tenure, and the public is still focused on her public deportment rather than her politics. Tomorrow, Ershad predicts, she will be condemned for mingling in a crowd of men. “I don’t care,” she exclaims.

A 43-year-old single mother, Ershad is working to make Afghanistan a better place for her daughters, aged 21 and 16. The biggest challenge, says Ershad, stylish in jeweled sandals, white headscarf, embroidered black tunic and pink lipstick, is the absence of rule of law. The country has excellent legislation criminalizing child marriage, forced marriage, rape and beatings. But the laws are rarely enforced. Ershad also criticizes the treatment of women in divorce court. “The judge is usually a man who says, ‘shame on you, why are you applying for a divorce?’ ” Divorce often means losing custody of the children. “Why does Parliament accept this much pain?” Ershad demands.

Zarif Design – Zolaykha Sherzad

Many brave women have entered civil society in Afghanistan as businesspersons, educators and politicians since the Taliban were pushed out of Kabul by NATO-led forces. Few, however, have done it more beautifully than Zolaykha Sherzad, the founder of Zarif Design in Kabul. (Zarif means ‘precious’ in the Dari language.) Sherzad is part of a dynamic cohort that is showing what can be done when educated women are freed from an oppressive patriarchy.

Afghanistan-born Sherzad was a teenager when her family fled the country in the 1980s during the Soviet Union invasion. She became a professor of architecture in New York and attended New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Sherzad returned to Afghanistan in 2000 to open School of Hope in Ghazni province, one of the few areas not under Taliban rule at the time. Smitten by the richness of Afghan culture, Sherzad began collecting fabrics and bought traditional pieces of clothing from the marketplace. “I recut, reshaped and recreated 20 pieces for a pilot fashion show,” says the slight, dark-haired 44-year-old. The positive response to that first exhibit led to the creation of Zarif Design in 2005. Soon, Sherzad’s clothes were being sold internationally at agnès b. stores in Paris, New York and London and worn by  people like Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Sherzad continues to use Afghanistan textiles and embroidery accessories like buttons cast from ancient Persian coins.

For Sherzad, Zarif Design is a way to connect the rich cultural past to Afghanistan’s dynamic future. While conservative forces in Afghanistan still oppose women’s independence, Sherzad bridges this vast gulf, showing that the past can be amalgamated with the present to create something new and beautiful that enriches the nation’s economy by providing good-paying work for women. Sherzad employs many Kabul housewives, educating them in the art of clothing design. They are like family, and create suits, jackets, evening gowns and wedding dresses on Singer sewing machines in the cozy cottages surrounding Sherzad’s main office, where she keeps sample racks for visitors. Sherzad has also created a ready-to-wear clothing line, introducing the Afghan public to the concept of sizes—a radical shift for a people who have always worn tailor-made garments.

Sherzad’s fashion house is sublime, and a subtle assertion that the new Afghanistan is a place of equality for women. One of her most creative designs is hand-woven silk dress with tiny, precise rows of accordion pleats that follow the body’s shape yet hides it, mimicking the burqa’s mystery. “The burqa is thought of as repressive,” yet, under Sherzad’s creative control, is transformed into a thing of beauty while remaining a symbol of female piety and modesty — a small but defiant act in Afghanistan’s gender wars.