Lucretia Torva, Sonita, 36"x48", 2019, $3,400
Sonita Alizadeh (b. 1996)
Sonita Alizadeh grew up in Herat, Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban. Her family first considered selling her as a bride when she was 10. She said that at the time, she didn't fully understand what that meant. Instead, her family fled to Iran to escape the Taliban. She then discovered the music of Iranian rapper Yas and American rapper Eminem. Inspired by their music, she started writing her own rap influenced songs. In 2014, Alizadeh entered a U.S. competition to write a song to get Afghan people to vote in their elections. She won a $1,000 prize, which Alizadeh sent to her mother, who had moved back to Afghanistan.
Shortly after winning the competition, Alizadeh's mother sent for her to return to Afghanistan, saying she had found a man to buy her. She was 16. Her mother was trying to earn a $9,000 dowry so that her elder brother could purchase a bride, and thought she could get at least $9,000 by selling her own daughter. (I can’t even...)
A documentary filmmaker, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, paid $2,000 to Sonita's mother and asked for six months of time for Sonita. She then wrote "Brides for Sale" and he filmed the music video, which gained a lot of international attention. The video was not only popular with women in Afghanistan, but also drew the attention of the nonprofit Strongheart Group, which reached out to Alizadeh to bring her to the U.S.
Alizadeh currently lives in New York and attends Bard College. In addition to attending classes, she continues to write songs. A documentary, called Sonita, premiered at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam in November 2015.
I find it interesting that she wears traditional clothing. My interpretation is that she is not trying to completely negate her culture, she hopes to change it for the better. I felt the addition of SAR’s rebellious graffiti energy is a good backdrop for Sonita. SAR (Charlie Giglia) was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in the neighborhoods of south Queens. He started writing in 1977 in true graffiti form, tagging the insides and painting the outsides on NYC transit to the end of the clean train movement in the 1990’s.