“Sisters” and the Status of Women in Afghanistan: A First-Hand Perspective from Corinne Jaber

Corrine Jaber engages BU students and faculty with her personal experiences in Kabul | Photo by C. Pack-Bailey

On Wednesday afternoon, Corinne Jaber, a French actress best known for her theater performances and several movie and television appearances, spoke to a diverse group of BU students, professors, and members of the Boston community in the Kenmore Classroom Building about her experiences directing plays in Afghanistan.  The event was co-sponsored by the newly named Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, formerly the Women’s Studies Program.

From 2005 to 2006, Jaber adapted Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labor Lost, and staged the play in Kabul for the first time since the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.  Most recently, she worked with an exclusively female group of actresses in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Jaber prefaced her discussion by stating, “I’m not a feminist, I’m not an academic, I’m a one woman enterprise.” She made this clear as she relayed amusing and occasionally heart-breaking stories of the women she met in Afghanistan, directing a group of actresses in a modern play of her own design.  Working alongside fellow French director, Fabrice Melquiot, they were able to create a modern play that ultimately reflected the lives of the women who would be acting them out, weaving in the tales they told and their desires for the future.

Despite the hardships she knew she would face, Jaber took her acting to Kabul in hopes of giving a voice to Afghan women.

“The only way into this world was through theater,” she said, so she brought theater to a country where actresses are often considered prostitutes.  After meeting and getting to know the women, Jaber changed her directing plans, deciding to make the play about the women’s stories and dreams.  She said her new goal was to create a unique space for women to tell their stories.

Jaber answered questions after her lecture |Photo by C. Pack-Bailey

Something Jaber learned from the Afghan people while she was in Kabul was that love was a near impossibility.  Marriages are frequently arranged, and as one local put it, “the pain is too big.”  She described some of her frustrations with her actresses, who struggled to produce genuine emotion on stage; emoting particular feelings was too personal and often traumatic based on their life experiences growing up in a war-torn country.

With the help of the French Federation, funding allowed for the actresses to perform their play in Paris, and spend five weeks outside of Afghanistan.  Jaber thought it would be a liberating experience for the women, but she was shocked at how much they missed home and their families.

“Freedom is not something you can just give to somebody,” she said  in retrospect.

Jaber thought she could remove the veil, both physically and emotionally for these women, but discovered that changing a person and a culture takes more than trip to Paris.  The people of Afghanistan live day-to-day and don’t make future plans, which was a struggle for Jaber as a Western director.  Jaber plans to return to Kabul to work with the people of Afghanistan, but in her next production, a modified version of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, she will work with both men and women.

Corinne Jaber will be giving an additional lecture entitled “Negotiating the Arts in Afghanistan” on her experiences with the women of Afghanistan on Tuesday, March 8 at 4pm in the Terrace Lounge of the GSU.  See this link for more information about the upcoming event.

About Lisa Dukart

Lisa is a double major in English and Philosophy and is minoring in Women's Studies. She will be graduating from BU in 2011.

View all posts by Lisa Dukart →

2 Comments on ““Sisters” and the Status of Women in Afghanistan: A First-Hand Perspective from Corinne Jaber”

  1. Please somebody stop this woman of privelidge going to these counties and bringing her one woman enterprise, euphemism for liberal capitalisism, to people who are already suffering. its typical middlle class muddleheaded idiocy to think you can swan around afganistan order the people about in an imperious way, then pack your bags and jump on a jet back to your comfortable home. shakespeare wont help- you fool. really common sense should prevail ,corrinne, go and get a proper job such as roadsweeper where you would do more good and not be out of your depth. oh and read some slavoj zizek.

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