No Burqas Behind Bars

No Burqas Behind Bars is a slice of life documentary, shot inside one of the most restrictive places on the planet, Takhar Prison in Afghanistan. Its 40 women inmates, crammed into just four cells, live their lives entirely cut off from outside society. Their stories are deeply compelling and are a testament to the strength and dignity of human will in the face of obscene conditions.

Women appear often faceless in Afghanistan. Outside the home, burqas cover them from head to toe. The all-encompassing burqas completely mask their identity, rendering Afghan women invisible. And voiceless. These are women who have no voice in the public sphere.

Of the 40 women in Takhar Prison, some have murdered rapists and abusive husbands. Most, however, have been imprisoned for so-called “moral crimes”. One woman has been imprisoned for 12 years for visiting her mother without her husband’s permission. Another woman is there because she gave shelter to a homeless girl who was subsequently discovered to have run away from an arranged marriage to a man 40 years her senior. Their visually and intellectually compelling stories, told by the prisoners themselves, are the heart of the film.

Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena has divided his life between Montevideo, where he was born in 1971 and partially raised, and Stockholm, where he arrived in the condition of refugee in the late 70’s.This experience has become central to his artistic practice that maps out narratives and imagery of the extreme and sublime.

Fabra Guemberena’s work has been exhibited extensively internationally, among others in the exhibition Delays and Revolutions at the 50th Venice Biennale, 2003; My Private Heroes Marta Hereford Museum, 2006; The Moderna Exhibition, The Modern Museum of Art, Stockholm, 2006; Favored Nations, 5th Momentum Biennal, Moss, 2009; 1st Biennale of The Americas, Denver, 2013; and the School of Kyev, Kyev, 2015. He is represented in collections such as The Modern Museum of Art, Stockholm; Sammlung Goetz, München; and The Wanås Foundation, Knislingen, Sweden.