Without translation, writing a new text is like shouting into a cave; no one else but the artist herself will hear her cries.
Both as a poet and an activist, Fatemeh Ekhtesari is an important voice for many – particularly for young women - far beyond the borders of Iran. She has lived in Lillehammer since 2017 and has constantly stayed in touch with her more than 122 000 followers on Instagram - with regular readings and conversations online.
Ekhtesari writes profoundly personal and critical poems about sexuality, gender roles, religion, freedom of expression and hypocrisy. Her poems are permeated with painful experiences from the court- and prison system in Iran as well as the subsequent flight for safety and freedom, which in the end brought her to Lillehammer in ICORN residency in 2017.
Leaving Iran was not a choice I made. It was the only way to stay alive and free and to continue to write.
Fatemeh Ekhtesari (f.1986) is a poet, editor, artist, human rights activist and a midwife from Teheran in Iran. Ekhtesari has been particularly engaged in women’s rights and has published four poetry collections, two short story collections, a novel and a 3-story/Poly-genre book (Nazdiki), in Persian. Her poems have been translated into English, Norwegian, Swedish and Czech.
Together with renowned poet and cultural activist Mehdi Mousavi, she was co-editor of the journal Hamin farta bood until it became banned and subsequently shut down in 2008. Ekhtesari has received several awards and honours for her authorship, also internationally, and participated in multiple literature festivals worlds wide.
In 2015, she fled from Iran after a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Ekhtesari and Mousavi to respectively 11 years and 6 months and 99 lashes, and 9 years and 99 lashes, on charges of “insulting the sacred” and “spreading propaganda about the state” in the social criticism expressed in their poetry. Ekhtesari moved to Lillehammer as part of the ICORN residency programme in 2017, and still lives and works there.
Vi overlever ikke (We do not survive) is Fatemeh Ekhtesari’s first publication in Norwegian, published by the Norwegian TransFe:r Forlag and supported by Lillehammer City of Refuge, with transcreation by Nina Zandjani. The publication was launched 21 October 2020.
In the media
21 October - NRK kulturstripa
Lillehammer City of Refuge
The Norwegian city of Lillehammer has been a member of ICORN and hosted persecuted writers and artists since 2008. The official member and managing institution of the ICORN programme is the Municipality of Lillehammer, partnered with the Norwegian Festival of Literature, Lillehammer House of Literature, Lillehammer library, The Nansen Humanistic Academy, Lillehammer University College, Bjerkebæk and Aulestad – the homes of The Nobel Prize in Literature winners Sigrid Undset and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.
Since 2008, Lillehammer have hosted three writers, Prudence Uriri, Hai Bah Huyn, and Nama Jafari, Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi, and has just welcomed a new writer in residence for the next two years.