Cannes Lions

Afghanistan's First All-Female Orchestra

WILLIAMS MURRAY HAMM, London / ORCHESTRA OF ST JOHN'S / 2020

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

The OSJ is a musical charity, who passionately believes that music has the power to transform lives. They raised funds to bring Afghanistan’s First All-Female Orchestra to Oxford to bridge cultures, highlight the challenges of female musicians in Afghanistan and further their musical experience and education.

In support of the week-long tour, the OSJ asked us to create a poster which would symbolise the AFAF journey, raise awareness and promote events. The commemorative poster was also mailed out to thank all OSJ’s supporters.

Idea

A handwoven wool rug is an iconic symbol of Afghan culture, often used as a stage to perform music. They say, “when you look at an Afghan rug, you can see its soul”.

Traditionally weavers used to conceal themselves and messages within their design, and during war times, ‘war rugs’ were produced and are still considered today the world's richest traditions of war art.

We designed a traditional handwoven rug, incorporating the apparatus of war depicting the Orchestra’s incredible journey from hardship to musical harmony. We commissioned its production with a women’s charity from Kabul, which champion women education and then photographed it to create a poster, with the copy in the ‘care label’. The posters were sent in a rubble sack, which customarily Afghan rugs get dispatched in.

Execution

It was important to celebrate the transformative journey of the orchestra from hardship to harmony. We emphasized the contrasts of their experience in a classic symmetric design, where war apparatus became musical instruments, planes people, bombs musical notes, combat helmets graduations caps, etc. The colours were carefully chosen to respect their symbolic significance:

Black for death and destruction

Orange for fire and excitement

Green for prosperity, balance and growth.

Red for passion and vitality.

White/Cream for purity and innocence

The making of the posters took four months, of which the weaving process alone took two to complete. The posters were printed on a fibrous paper stock and hand frayed around the edges to give it a tactile finish and reminisce of a rug.

When we received the rug from Kabul it was wrapped in a rubble bag, so we packed the posters in the same way when mailing them out.

Outcome

“This was a unique cultural exchange that broadened horizons for all those involved. It offered a rare opportunity for the dedication and commitment of these women to be witnessed internationally.

The promotional poster was key in symbolising the journey, the difficulties that had to be overcome and the opportunities, through education, that lie ahead. It fully met its brief in terms of building understanding and resulted in packed audiences for the various events. Activity continues in the form of distance learning, a key element of the project. The orchestra itself continues to grow as the individual musicians strive to develop their full potential.

Overall a great success. “

Peter Cousins

Chairman OSJ