Mariam Ghani is an artist, filmmaker, writer, and educator, and through this combination of work, she is on a mission to preserve the past, enlighten the present, and provide hope for the future. Born into exile to Afghan and Lebanese parents, Mariam was born and raised in New York City. After her parents tried and failed to return to either of their respective homelands when she was young, Mariam spent the majority of her life in the United States. Mariam describes her experience of being born into exile as that of an "in-between space" - a pervasive feeling of estrangement that seemed to come from all sides of her identity. A feeling which, from the outside looking in, may seem similar to that of a first-generation immigrant, but the hopeless longing that came with being inherently unable to return to one’s ethnic homeland made Mariam's experience something else entirely. She wouldn't travel to Afghanistan nor Lebanon until she was at least 24.
In the meantime, however, Mariam would be absorbing the stories of her parents - particularly those from her maternal lineage - and dreaming about the unreachable world in which these stories were set. Later, while enrolled at NYU, Mariam would discover her passion for art and filmmaking, and redirect her life towards the pursuit of artful preservation as public service. Mariam's work is unique in the way that it highlights remnants of the past that, in one way or another, no longer exist. Whether this is archival footage from the oft-misunderstood Afghanistan of the early-to-mid-20th century, or her latest work, What We Left Unfinished, which examines "...the relationship between art and politics in times of war, censorship, and repression,” Mariam’s work is exquisite in its presentation, in its purpose, and in its authenticity.
In this episode of Stories of Transformation, we discuss Mariam's unique lived experience of being raised by exiles; how she discovered her passion for filmmaking and redirected her life; and the overarching goal of her work in preservation and the arts. We also discuss the complexity of language, in ways both linguistic and interfamilial; what it's like being the daughter of the current President of Afghanistan; and how public service can mean different things to different people working in different spaces.
For full show notes
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Learn more about Mariam Ghani's upcoming film, "What We Left Unfinished", slated for US theatrical release in August, 2021
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Stories of Transformation
Hosted by: Baktash Ahadi
Produced by: Joseph Gangemi
Digital Marketing & Media by: Katherine An
Theme music by: Qais Essar
Artwork by: Masheed Ahadi
Episode Music Credits
"Take My Hand" by Sid Acharya
"Willow Wood" by Alon Peretz
"The River of Hope" by Emmanual Jacob