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On View

Gazelle Samizay

My shadow is a word writing itself across time.

Using poetry and sweeping landscape imagery, Gazelle Samizay draws connections between her experience as a Muslim-American and wrongfully imprisoned Japanese-Americans during WW II.

Gazelle Samizay. My shadow is a word writing itself across time, 2017. Digital still.

The fear of internment of Muslim-Americans prompted Samizay to visit Manzanar, California, the location of one of the United States’ Japanese-American concentration camps. Upon encountering the landscape she was reminded of Afghanistan—the mountains against the open blue sky, the dry earth, but also the landscape of forgetting. Whether it is the incarceration of Japanese Americans or the US’s longest war in Afghanistan, injustices are often made invisible, normalized and forgotten.

Manzanar has been the site of multiple oppressions, including extracting 1,000 Paiute Indians to make way for farmers and ranchers in 1863, and forcing ranchers and miners to relocate when the City of Los Angeles purchased the water rights to the area in 1929.

Samizay writes: “Standing in Manzanar meant standing at the intersection of these histories of aggression. It meant confronting the grief, anger, and betrayal embedded in the land beneath our feet. What is denied does not disappear; what is buried must surface. What would it take—and what would it mean—for the U.S. to face its shadows? Tracing my own shadow with the searching words of Afghan American poet, Sahar Muradi, I began to explore this question.”


About the Artist

Gazelle Samizay was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and lives and works in Los Angeles. Her work investigates memory and the silent transmission of trauma between generations, especially as it relates to the rights and self-expression of women. Weaving complexity into the often-reductive image of Afghanistan, she uses photography and video to bridge the worlds of Afghanistan and the United States. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and internationally, and most recently at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach; and the Whitechapel Gallery, London. In addition to her studio practice, her writing has been published in One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature. She received her Master’s in Fine Arts in photography at the University of Arizona and is a recipient of the Princess Grace Experimental Film Honoraria.