In Kandahar, Shahla, a teacher, draped in black leads young students in a Koran class. In a Kabul shop, seamstresses chat with employer Bakhtnazina as they sew. Belmont photographer Paula Lerner witnessed these scenes and many others of women, children and men quietly rebuilding their nation.
In Kandahar, Shahla, a teacher, draped in black leads young students in a Koran class.
At a daycare center run by Habiba, children have a lively discussion, with opinions punctuated by hand gestures as certain as any adult’s.
In a Kabul shop, seamstresses chat with employer Bakhtnazina as they sew.
Belmont photographer Paula Lerner witnessed these scenes and many others of women, children and men quietly rebuilding their nation.
Lerner will exhibit her photos in “Afghan Stories,” a photographic and multimedia presentation making several stops in the area, including Chelmsford Public Library.
Lerner traveled to Afghanistan four times between 2005 and 2007, including three trips on behalf of the Business Council for Peace, a non-profit organization helping women in war-afflicted areas to become economically self-sufficient.
“My job was to document the Business Council for Peace programs,” said Lerner, a council member. “That body of work eventually became a multimedia feature, called ‘The Women of Kabul.’”
Lerner focused on female entrepreneurs, including the ways their successes benefited women who came to work for them.
She made her fourth trip independently, with Rangina Hamidi, a women’s advocate and founder of Kandahar Treasure. “Through her, I am able to get very unusual access to the inner life of women,” Lerner said.
For viewers less familiar with Afghan culture, Lerner would like her photos to offer a prism through which to better understand women’s lives. While women typically spend less time than men in the public sphere, Lerner said, “They live and die in the walls of their compound, but even though their lives are constrained, they are not any less rich than ours.”
“Afghan Stories: Photo Exhibits and Multimedia by Paula Lerner” is on view Monday, Feb. 2 through Feb. 28 at Chelmsford Public Library, 25 Boston Road, Chelmsford. Opening reception Saturday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. Free. For more information on this and related events in the area, visit www.lernerphoto.com.
Margaret Smith is Arts and Calendar editor at GateHouse Media New England's Northwest Unit. E-mail her at email@example.com.