March 14 / April 3 – 2009  

About the exhibition:
Farhana is a 5 year old girl, a free spirit, happy and spontaneous and excited about life. How can a such a girl deal with the rules, restrictions, traditions, misconceptions, and narrow-mindedness of the society around her? It's easier for a five year old, when everything seems so simple. It gets more and more difficult and confusing with time.

The exhibition shows pictures and incidents of Farhana, the heroine of a children's book series, as well as other sketches, drawings, photos and thoughts about freedom and captivity. Put in a random mixture, the show portrays the exact confused state of mind of a girl, a woman, who does not know whether to love or refuse. Growing day by day in front of her, a daughter, who miraculously is taking the steps of Farhana, was created years before she had any obvious character.. an 11 year-old daughter who, herself has something to say, and so is given a space to express herself in this show. So the show consists all in all of 3 female characters with a mind of their own, Rania, Amina and Farhana.

About Farhana:
In 1999 I attended a seminar on “Writing for Children”. I had already written several short stories for adults, some of them were published in magazines. I was interested in child-psychology & education, which was my field of study. But I never considered writing for children. I didn’t think I had the talent for that, because I was more inclined towards writing about realities, about our everyday life, about real events. And for me children’s stories were mostly fairytales and fantasies, which were not my points of strength.

It was an interesting seminar, where all sorts of different categories of children’s’ books were mentioned & discussed: fantasy, science fiction, scientific, educational and factual stories…

It was the first time it came to my mind that I could contribute to this field by writing about the everyday life of children.

I have always believed that for children to be really happy, they have to understand life as it really is. Understanding people and things around you makes you less scared, more confident and secure. I felt that giving children a big dose of unreal fantasy sort of stories only confuses them more than they already are.

So, while I was sitting in this seminar it suddenly struck me that it is very important to write to the child about the world around them & helping them understand people and events, feelings and behavior, more so than just developing & encouraging their imagination. My interest in writing children’s books was provoked.

At that point of time I had a two-year-old daughter, my first child, and I was more and more interested in learning about the right way of raising a child. As my daughter was growing older, trying to prove her own identity & independence, I had a choice: either to keep her under my wings with the excuse of protecting her from the outside world; or letting her go to explore everything around her & discover things on her own.

Being in this phase of my life, Farhana (the heroine of my first stories) was born. It was the girl I wanted my daughter to be: free, spontaneous, happy, independent and strong.

How many little girls in our society are put in pre-defined moulds of little ladies, walking around in fancy dresses and little handbags, not allowed to play rough games or dirty their dresses or speak loudly. I always feel so sorry for those children who have been robbed off the chance to be themselves, and live as they want to.

And so, my Farhana had to be wild with curly untied hair, a very simple dress (I didn’t want her to be a Tomboy in shorts or trousers, because she was a girl after all), and, most of the times, walking barefoot.

I wanted a girl who was not pretty (according to our culture’s standards): a dark complexion with a big nose, and a little chubby. The point was to give children the message that happiness comes from inside, from what you are and what you want to be, and not from how you look like. And Farhana was a happy child.

But wanting to be free and have it your own way is very tricky, because it means that there will be conflict with people around you, and so I decided that this would be the conflict in each story, but that by solving the problems, Farhana has to remain kind, thoughtful and considerate towards others, without sacrificing her own free will.

Participating artists
Rania Amin

Elias Modern Publishing House 

International Children Book Day


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