In celebration of the International Day of Tolerance and the 2020 edition of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Prize, UNESCO organized an online Master Class on Tolerance on Monday, November 16, 2020. Among the participants was Ms Kubra Khademi; a UMISAA (UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute for South Asian Arts) scholar from Mariam Dawood School of Visual Arts and Design, BNU.
The aim of the Master Class was to tackle several of the global issues that hinder the development of a culture of peace, non-violence, and tolerance as well as showcase and discuss the numerous achievements of former laureates of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence.
Shedding light on her journey with UNESCO and UMISSA, Kubra in her testimony said:
“2009 and 2015 are the important moments to explain my relation with UMISSA and UNESCO.
I was lucky enough to get an UMISAA scholarship and enter BNU in 2009 under the direction of Salima Hashmi. I studied contemporary arts and was taught excellent methods for exploring creation within my talents. This opportunity had an enormous impact on my artistic expression as an Afghan woman.
Looking back at those days and my background, I see this period as a rebirth. Since then, I have become a professional practicing artist; it is the realization of my childhood dream. Being an artist has given me a goal in life, and the freedom and tools to express myself and to critique the issues that have affected me as a woman in my politically patriarchal society.
I am the first woman in my family to attain a higher level of education, something my mother and grandmothers could not have.
After completing my studies and working as an artist in Kabul, I was able to focus on personal and historical issues about women’s identity in Afghanistan. My 2015 performance Armor which directly critiques sexual harassment was surprisingly perceived as controversial, and as a result I received death threats against me. Documentation of this performance went viral and circulated around the world.
So, how did I remain alive? I was not alone in making my dream of being an artist come true. Salima Hashmi, Madanjeet Singh, and France Marquadet from UMISAA, as well as UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova were the first people to act on my behalf. They used their positions and connections to protect me from the dangers my artistic expression had caused me in Afghanistan, and made it possible for me to move to France.
Although the consequences of my work on my life were devastating, receiving the title of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Literature by the minister of French Culture Audray Azulay in 2016 was an ointment that soothed the scars and trauma from running away from my country. It is an incredible contrast for my artistic work to be legitimised and celebrated in my adopted country, when in my home country my artistic expression put me in mortal danger.
Thanks to UMISAA & UNESCO, because by their support I have been able to become the better woman I am, a free artist who lives in a country where the freedom of creation is one of the most precious goods.”