Jun 20, 2013


Today I was reminded by a friend in Antigua, Guatemala, about a huipil book I made a few years ago. Judy Sadlier, who I met last time I visited that amazing San Miguelish kind of city, is helping me put together an exhibition, tentatively titled The Huipil Project. In looking at my website, she had come across Singing Bird, an homage to murdered Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman

SINGING BIRD, altered book, mixed media, 2009
Galeria 6, Mineral de Pozos

In her email, Judy said she has a thing for larks, and wondered if I might send her something more about the poem. Reading that email, I was called right back to the moment I first heard about Nadia and started researching her life, her death, her words, now memorialized forever rather than silenced.

(private collection, San Francisco)

Nadia Anjuman
translation by T.S. Kerrigan

My wings are closed... I cannot fly,
She wrote before she plummeted,         
A creature less of earth than sky,

A lark that bullies killed with stones,
She fell to earth, her music stilled,
A broken heap of shattered bones. 

What gift like hers endures for long
Where ignorance flings stones at art,
And bullies put an end to song?
To choose to sing's an act of will,
She had to know instinctively
A singing bird's the first they kill.

Book cover, SINGING BIRD
Nadia was martyred, killed by her husband for her love of words. This story prompted me to read Christina Lamb's book Sewing Circles of Herat, which was the name of an underground school for women who wanted to read and write when it became forbidden to do so in Afghanistan. Re-creating and re-membering stories of silenced women like this have become my life's work, and the huipil continues to be the perfect container for them.


Adobehead said...


What a beautiful post, thank you for the poem and for your work. I am going to tell my sister about your blog, I think she will love it.


Jan said...

I am Laurel's sister and I loved that poem. I am going to look into some of the names and books you mentioned. I am coming to visit Laurel in October and your gallery is at the top of my list. Thank you so much Lena.

Lena Bartula said...

Laurel, I'm so glad you liked this, and sent it to your sister.

Lena Bartula said...

Jan, thank you, and I look forward to meeting you when you come in October!