Hear from a panel of speakers whose works have, in different ways, illuminated Afghanistan’s kaleidoscopic past and present through war and unrest, but also through culture and community. Durkhanai Ayubi shares her family’s food, heritage and culture in Parwana. Zaheda Ghani speaks to her debut novel Pomegranate & Fig, a story of tradition, family, war and displacement. Andrew Quilty recounts the capture of the country’s capital in 2021 through the eyes of Afghans in August in Kabul. They speak with writer and director Benjamin Gilmour, whose film Jirga tells the story of an Australian soldier who returns to Afghanistan seeking to make amends for a war crime.

Andrew Quilty (Australian)

Andrew Quilty

Andrew Quilty is the recipient of nine Walkley Awards, including the Gold Walkley, for his work on Afghanistan, where he was based between 2013 and 2022. He has also received the George Polk Award, the World Press Photo Award and the Overseas Press Club of America award for his investigation into massacres committed by a CIA-backed Afghan militia. August in Kabul is his first book.

Durkhanai Ayubi (Australian)

Durkhanai Ayubi

Durkhanai Ayubi is an Afghan born writer and restaurateur, arriving to Australia in 1987. She is a lifelong Fellow of the Oxford University based Atlantic Fellowship, which seeks to rewrite global social inequities. She is author of Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen, published to global acclaim, winning awards in the UK and the US. Her work has been featured in publications globally, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and beyond.

Zaheda Ghani (Australian)

Zaheda Ghani

Zaheda Ghani and her family arrived in Australia from Afghanistan as refugees in the 1980s. At nine years old Zaheda, also known as Zoe, handwrote her first novel using a HB pencil, in a scented diary with a lock and key. The heart of what she wrote back then developed over many years to become her debut novel, Pomegranate & Fig, which was shortlisted for the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. Zaheda was also a recipient of the Western Sydney Emerging Writers Fellowship. Zaheda served on the board of Australia for UNHCR, the private sector partner of the UN Refugee Agency from 2017 to 2021. She is now an Ambassador for Australia for UNHCR and has an active interest in UNHCR’s humanitarian work. Zaheda lives in Sydney with her husband.

Benjamin Gilmour (Australian)

Benjamin Gilmour

Benjamin Gilmour is a writer and filmmaker, director of the films Jirga (2019), Paramedico (2012) and Son of a Lion (2008). He is the author of the books Warrior Poets (Pier 9), Paramedico (HarperCollins) and The Gap (Penguin Random House). He has travelled extensively in Afghanistan where he filmed his latest feature film Jirga, Australia's entry to the 91st Academy Awards. He lives in Northern NSW, Australia.