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Iranian feminist, filmmaker and activist; Saba Vasefi hosts the 2nd International Women’s Poetry and Art Festival

By Mahdia Rahman

Friday 6 March 2015, by admin

Feministschool: Sydney was host to yet another successful and inspiring event; The Second Sydney International women’s poetry and art festival held on the 6 March 2015 at Sydney Town Hall.

As part of International Women’s Day, this festival is a part of a global chain of events in over forty countries worldwide and has been official named one of UNESCO’s 2015 International Year of Light activities.

Much more than an expression of creativity, the poetry festival “Woman Scream†is a creative rebellion against violence towards women. It was a memorable night where women performers joined in union, sharing words of inspiration in spoken word poetry, hip hop performances and thought provoking speeches.

It was inspirational to see the unity amongst a diverse range of artists and poets from various ethnicities, different sexual preferences and various academic fields. Many poets and speakers were first or second generation migrants with French, Iranian, Pakistani, Aboriginal, Bangladeshi, Somalian, South African, Lebanese and Australian backgrounds.

‘Woman Scream International Poetry Festival†(Grito de Mujer) was founded in 2011 in the Dominican Republic by poet Jael Uribe to honour women and as an expression against violence. Sponsored by Irene Doutney, City of Sydney Councillor, this event was brought to Sydney by Iranian feminist, poet, filmmaker and human rights activist, Saba Vasefi who was a lecturer at the privileged Shahid Beheshti University in Iran. Saba Vasefi was a member of the committee of Human Rights Reporters and also worked as a reporter for the International Campaign for Human rights in Iran. However she was expelled from the university after 4 years of teaching due to her activism upon which she fled to Australia.

Saba’s joy at organising such an auspicious event was certainly evident during the night.

“Through the power of poetry and other art forms we scream out against all forms of violence against women.â€

As festival director, Saba has ensured that established as well as emerging poets and artists were represented as well as political and academic figures. The MC for the night was Jenny Leong, the Greens candidate for Newtown in this year’s NSW State Election. Well known poets such as Melinda Smith, Tricia Dearborn and Candy Royalle performed alongside emerging poets such as Hani Aden, Page Sinclair and Dr. Mariam Chalaan. Talented musicians also graced our ears such as harpist; Joanne Baee and cello performer, 14 year old Minerva Khodabande

The event was buzzing with the spirit and determination of its participants. Key speakers at the event included thought leaders such as Dr. Anne Summers, Dr Mehreen Faruqi from the NSW Legislative Council, Andrea Ulbrick the ABC Commissioning Editor and Professor Martine Antle, the Chair of French Studies.

Saba believes that "The literature of women in exile or migrant women is the literature of resistance. It represents a world hurt by capitalism, sexism and racism - a world where women bravely reveal their open wounds and deep scars. This is a creative rebellion against the forces that abuse and displace women and needs to be recognised, seen and heard.â€

The proceeds of this event were donated towards the Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation and special guests were released from detention specifically to attend this event.

Such powerful performances once again place Sydney amongst a long list of cities celebrating the strength and resilience of women throughout the world. With each “scream†, each poem, it brings a myriad of women together to raise their voice, transcending the boundaries of place, ethnicity or religion.

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