Writers’ Workshop Goes Beyond Written Word to Express Fallout of War

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‘Her Story Is’ Project Includes Poetry, Visual Art, Music, and TheatreUMass Boston’s William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences is hosting its 31st annual Writers’ Workshop this week, on and off campus. The Writers’ Workshop features working sessions with distinguished writers and artists, and includes reflections told through the spoken word, theatre, and art.

All of those elements combined during Tuesday afternoon’s session highlighting the Her Story Is project, a yearlong collaboration between female Iraqi and American artists supported by the Joiner Institute and other partners. Jennifer Jean, Amy Merrill, and Anne Loyer talked about their experiences meeting Iraqi artists in Dubai last year.

“For me, it’s about listening, responding, and imagination, and trying to create something out of it,” Loyer said about Her Story Is.

Loyer showed pictures of paintings by artist Thaira al-Mayahi, who survived abusive relationships with her father and two husbands, all affected by their military experience. The first pieces Loyer shared showed a frame bordering the art.

“The behavior that these [Iraqi] women were subjected to was irrational and a frame is a way of bringing order to things. They couldn’t be framed,” Loyer said.

Loyer also demonstrated how in her own art, she is experimenting with frames, thinking about how the frame is what we see and how it projects into the environment.

Merrill, a Cambridge playwright, shared her experiences meeting with Elham Nasser Al-Zabeedy.

“She showed us paintings of the suffering. She asked, ‘What is the American women getting as she listens to these stories?  What will an American woman say when she learns a woman is being sold?’ … Even as we are separated by war, women are connected. And this is the basis of Her Story Is,” Merrill said. “I left having figured out a new way to write a new war story.”

Together, Merrill …

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