The Portrait of Dreams

Fatimah Hossaini

It is necessary to break the stereotype through which our stories are told and consolidate narrative rules capable of generating awareness and propagating hope.

1. Bio

Afghan artist, photographer, curator, exhibitor, author of the photography book Beauty Amid War and founder of the Mastooraat Organization. The youngest among the top ten winners of the Hypatia International Award in 2021 and Rising Talent Ambassador of the Women’s Forum in 2022. Graduated in Industrial Engineering and later in Photographic Art at the University of Tehran. Professor within the Faculty of Art at the University of Kabul from 2018 to 2019, she was forced to leave the country following the return of the Taliban dictatorship. She actively collaborates with the UNHCR and UN Womento support the rights of women and refugees. Her works recount powerful stories of identity and femininity in Afghanistan.

2. The power of a dream

My biggest dream as a child was to see the world – the people, the colours, the different lives. From this, I drew the strength to fight, to distance myself from a social system rife with restrictions and gain my freedom. Today, that freedom is the force that fuels a new dream: to give a voice to all those women who remain trapped there through my art. The dream of justice is more powerful than any regime, than any war, and has shown me how – at least in a figurative sense – to lift the beauty and resilience of many women out from under these restrictions. Unfortunately, I cannot free them one by one, but I can give them the comfort of knowing that they are not destined to be forgotten and that the world will hear their story.

3. My journey into real beauty

My journey into true beauty consists of intense, proud gazes that pierce the silence of oppression. They are the eyes of Afghan women who live in war zones, but they are also the wish for resilience for each and every woman who fights her own battle. True beauty is powerful and moves from within. It is necessary to break the stereotype through which our stories are told, to put the most authentic version of ourselves out there. This emancipates us, shattering that narrative, which intends to label us as submissive and without hope. This can inspire and ignite sparks of resilience, even in the very darkest of corners. There is no greater beauty than that of a soul that re-connects with its dignity.

4. What I learned and won’t let go

Immortalising beauty is a route to salvation, to redemption. Dreams – the desires we feel most instinctively – often show us the way to make our contribution in the world. It is important not to allow the narrative that society has prepared for us to stop us. A manipulated narrative of beauty is yet another means of taking away our power. But, if we connect it to sensations that are truly our own, it is transformed into resilience. Portraying authentic beauty is a powerful tool to fight oppression and raise awareness. I dream of peace for all: to be able to be, to express oneself, to find one’s place in the world.

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