I Left Behind My Favourite Traditional Shoes to Save My Life
Tamana Noor (+Video)
A young woman leaves behind her cherished traditional shoes when she must flee her homeland, but she will always remember those beautiful, multi-coloured shoes as a symbol of her cultural identity, her country’s history, and her own strength and resilience.
For some women and girls, maybe shoes mean just something to wear or represent fashion and style, but for me, my shoes are symbolic of my existence, of my efforts to survive and accept hardships. Since I’m a newcomer, my shoes remind me of who I am, where I came from, and why I came here. They represent the identity, culture and history of my home country. My colourful and beautiful shoes teach me that I am a strong woman from the historical and ancient land of Asia, born in a country of several ethnic groups with different customs and traditions. The beauty and uniqueness of my shoes remind me that I am a flower of Central Asia’s garden, whose scent has perfumed the world. They make me feel like a butterfly from the land whose natural beauty has astonished the world.
In addition, the traditional structure of my shoes reminds me of the beauty and elegance of the handicrafts of my home country. My shoes make me proud that I’m a woman from the land founded by Jamshid, a land that is part of the province of Balk, a land that celebrates the ancient and traditional festival of Nowruz. I am a proud daughter of a land whose hospitality is world famous; the taste of its food is pleasant and unforgettable for tourists.
Moreover, the preciousness and rarity of my shoes remind me that I am a diamond of the land whose rare jewels and hidden treasures dazzled the eyes of the world, the land that has been invaded for years. The durability and strength of my shoes make me think about the greatness and power of my homeland. My shoes make me feel that I am the iron daughter of a mountainous land and that I have the strength to resist any hardship. My shoes remind me that I am from the land of free birds that used to fly high on the clouds. I was once free to go anywhere and I had a nest to live in, but now I have no wings to fly and no nest to rest my feet. I am like a treasure tree whose leaves have turned yellow and fallen to the ground and lost everything except for hope—a tree that believes in life again and is waiting to turn green again in spring.
My shoes make me feel that I am a passenger who has lost her way. She is from a land that has been burning in fire for more than forty years, burns but does not raise her voice. I am a member of those helpless people fighting poverty. My shoes remind me that I am a daughter of parents who bravely sacrificed their lives for the education an advancement of their children and a sister of millions of soldiers who are still sacrificing their lives to defend the home country.
My shoes remind me of my own journey—how I was able to study and achieve my goals despite the war and legal restrictions on women in my home country. My shoes have walked with me through all the difficult periods of my life and protected me like a bodyguard. It may surprise you that I compare my shoes to a bodyguard, but that’s what they are. When the war began in my country, I had to wear comfortable shoes whether I went to school, university, or work so that I could run to save my life whenever there was a bomb explosion or a suicide attack.
My favourite traditional shoes are called pizars. They represent the beautiful culture of my home country, but unfortunately, I couldn’t bring them with me. When the Taliban took power in my country, my life was in danger and I had to leave the country. I could save only my life, and I couldn’’t bring my favourite shoes with me. I still remember the eve of my wedding. I wore those shoes with my Afghani dress called Gand Afghani for my henna party. I also wore them on Eid and Nowruz, which are the special cultural days of our country. Through photos, I remember how we used to celebrate those days with my family and friends.
Finally, I know that I left my favourite traditional shoes in my country and came to Canada as a newcomer to be safe. I want to start a new life with new shoes and a new culture. I hope that I can integrate into this new culture and overcome new challenges.
Tamana Noor arrived in Canada in 2022. She was a university lecturer in the law faculty of a public university in Afghanistan. She taught human rights, international law, and peace and conflict resolution. She has also worked with international organizations as a project facilitator and trainer. She is currently volunteering as a project facilitator with the Afghan Women’s Organization’s Mother and Child project in Toronto. In her free time, Tamana likes to read, research and write articles.