The Afghanistan Tree Stories Project - What Trees Say reshapes the way we think about the narratives of trees, and how they serve as important communicators of culture and markers of time passed. The narrative we too often hear about trees is limited to the catastrophic things that are happening to them namely logging and burning or that they serve to sequester carbon. Similarly the narrative we hear about Afghanistan centres on catastrophe and human suffering. Just as trees themselves develop networks of communication and support for their fellow trees, this project will lean into this capacity trees (and humans) have to tell the interconnected stories of their lives and surroundings. Through storytelling, creative artistic practice, and data visualization we will highlight the stories, patterns, and history of these trees, and the stories people of Afghanistan tell about them.
The project has endured multiple delays due to the pandemic and the nature of international collaborations across three continents. These delays have enhanced the art emerging from the stories we collected - just like the path of a sapling, the Project is searching for light and digging its roots deeper into our human narrative of the environment.
The project was developed by Dr. Diana Chester and Ann Jyothis Raj, and has grown into a collaboration with multiple individuals. The website is an emerging expression of the process of interpreting stories. The artists have chosen their mediums and rely on human senses to feel for and explore the depth of the human narratives of the arboreal realms. Indeed, a forest, a tree...is much more than you see.
This project was made possible through a grant from the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.
As this is a work in progress do visit us from time to time to check the updated artwork or sign up to receive updates.
Stories told through art. (We have worked on several art projects since 2019; check back in for more as we upload them!)
Listen to the soundscape of a tree in Kabul; recorded on 20th April 2019.
Across cultures, art-forms and timezones
Ann is an artist with a Masters degree in Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment, from Clark University in the U.S. Ann was an aspiring art major at Mount Holyoke College but graduated with a Bachelor's in Environmental Studies instead. She has worked in the Development sector for 15+ years in multiple countries, and has been an educator for 3 years. She is currently self-employed as the Assistant and Chief Secretary-general for her mixed breed Indie hound, Princess Leia Organa.
Diana is an inter-disciplinary multimedia artist & Digital Media Scholar. Her work draws from sound & archival studies, & the ethnographic study of expressive culture in religious traditions. She is fascinated by patterns in sound & the relationship in the formal qualities of different mediums. She is a recipient of the NMEMNM Digital Residency for Music and Sound Cultures & is a visiting scholar at TISCH School of the Arts at NYU. After NYU Abu Dhabi & Yale-NUS College, she is now faculty at the University of Sydney.
Qais is a compassionate and fearless language interpreter from Kabul who made this project happen. An aspiring reporter, Qais collected the stories and photographs from the ground, traveled to various parts of Afghanistan to talk to anyone willing about their relationship with trees.
Towards the end of the project, the risk involved resulted in his smartphone and personal belongings being robbed at gunpoint.
Kushaan is a digital artist with a focus in 3D modeling for VFX and games. He has a strong passion for storytelling that reflects on the complex issues of our times whilst also capturing his audience's imagination. He finds his inspiration in independent animation, renaissance and realist paintings, Hellenistic sculpture, and his personal experiences as he grew up in 5 different countries across 4 continents. He is currently a student at Think Tank Training Centre in Canada.
Ahmad is from Panjsher province of Afghanistan. He is currently a Visual Communication major and a Philosophy minor at Luther College. An aspiring artist with the goal of becoming a professional photographer, videographer, drawing artist and graphic designer, Ahmad is currently focused on nature photography and rebranding, with special focus on logo design.
He also dwells on philosophical thinking just to make his life more complicated in his free time because… why not?
An Experiential Educator and Communications Designer, Vikraant has worked with over 2000 children & young adults from 80+ countries designing & facilitating transformational (& waaayyyy too fun) learning experiences. Zis hope and purpose in life is to help people communicate with consciousness & empathy; and in doing so work towards zis vision of a world where every individual takes everyone's needs into consideration (& a world where ze owns Princess Leia Organa, but we don’t tell Ann that).