Writer Eliza Griswold and photographer Seamus Murphy went to Afghanistan in search of Pashtun women’s poetry. In cities and villages in Kabul, Nangrahar, and Helmand Provinces they collected two-line folk poems called Landays.
Landays are two-line poems from Afghanistan; the word landay meaning short, poisonous snake. Reading them opens up the hidden world of Pashtun women. I hope the photographs conjured here from absorbing their wisdom and provocation can achieve something similar.
What makes landays even more remarkable is that the poetry comes from mostly illiterate Pashtun women leading isolated lives in rural areas. In the form of a 22- syllable couplet, they anonymously cover risky and taboo subjects; love, loss, exile, sex, drones, the Taliban, the weakness of men, being sold to old men, America.
Anonymity is the key to their candor, as it was the license I used to approach this as a photographer. As I couldn’t, or at least shouldn’t photograph the women, it freed me to capture what they wrote about. Life, and their lives in Afghanistan.
Poet and writer Eliza Griswold and I had long talked about collaborating on a project about Afghanistan that would satisfy our particular curiosity for the place. Eliza worked on the words and I worked on the imagery. Poetry Magazine in the U.S. is devoting its June 2013 issue to the word and picture story we produced, the first time in 100 years of publishing they have given an entire edition to one subject.
- Seamus Murphy
ISSUE 31 has arrived, chock-full of strange and beautiful work.
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