November 09, 2023 to January 07, 2024

The Ink of Identity: Rereading Afghanistan

Artist Gazelle Samizay presents work created out of her time in residence at the San Francisco Public Library as part of the SFAC's Artist in Residence program

Exhibition Dates: November 9, 2023-January 7, 2024
Location: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library Main Branch,100 Larkin Street, 6th Floor
Hours: Please check SFPL website for public hours

The San Francisco Public Library in partnership with the San Francisco Arts Commission's Artist in Residence program is pleased to present The Ink of Identity: Rereading Afghanistan, a multimedia installation by 2022 Artist in Residence Gazelle Samizay!

Emerging from Samizay's desire to critically engage with and disrupt prevailing narratives in the SFPL's extensive collection of books on Afghanistan (dating back to 1762), this exhibition explores the complexities of Afghan identity and the impact of Western-authored literature on the understanding of Afghan history and culture, with a particular focus on Afghan American perspectives. 

As part of her process, Samizay presented select library books to Afghan Americans, prompting responses and reflections via video. The material, some of which was unfamiliar to the interviewees, sparked questions about their own identities and lineages and often times the sharing of intimate personal and familial stories. The conversations captured a sense of distance from their homeland, not only geographically but also temporally, as the interviewees explored aspects of Afghanistan that have been lost over time.

In a library archive predominantly dominated by non-Afghan voices, The Ink of Identity seeks to reestablish the presence and perspectives of Afghans within the archival space. It strives to challenge preconceived notions and reshape the understanding of Afghanistan, inviting viewers to critically evaluate the discourse on Afghanistan, while reimagining the archive. 

Artist Reception
Thursday, November 30, 2023 | 5:00-7:00 pm
San Francisco History Center @ the SFPL
100 Larkin Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102
Free and open to the public

About the Artist

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan and raised in rural Washington state, Gazelle Samizay’s work often reflects the complexities and contradictions of culture, nationality and gender through the lens of her bicultural identity. Her work in photography, video, and mixed media has been exhibited across the US and internationally, including at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, and the Slamdance Film Festival, Park City, UT. Her pieces are part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY; and En Foco, NY. In addition to her studio practice, her writing has been published in One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature, and she is vice president of the board of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association. Samizay has received numerous awards and residencies, including from the Princess Grace Foundation, NY; Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles; the Arizona Community Foundation, Phoenix; Level Ground, Los Angeles, the Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, NY; and the San Francisco Arts Commission. She has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, NPR, Hyperallergic, LA Weekly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contemporary Practices. She received her MFA in photography at the University of Arizona and currently lives in San Francisco where she serves as the gallery director of the Worth Ryder Art Gallery at UC Berkeley.


Launched in 2015, the San Francisco Arts Commission Artist in Residence Program builds partnerships with City Departments in order to provide unique artist residencies that result in strengthening the value of artists participating in and responding to the advancement of civic dialogue. The SFAC is partnering with the SFPL once again and will welcome four new artists to start exploring the library this fall!

Program Partner



What's Coming Up

Public Meeting

Executive Committee Meeting

December 18
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM

Hybrid: 401 Van Ness | Rm 125 and Online
Public Meeting

Visual Arts Committee Meeting

December 16
2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 408 and Online
Public Meeting

Civic Design Review Committee Meeting

December 11
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 408 and Online
Public Meeting

Community Investments Committee Meeting

December 09
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 416 and Online