Saskatchewan

Man from Afghanistan buys land in Kandahar, Sask., for family as little piece of home

Finding a little piece of home was always the goal for Abdul Bari Jamal, who moved to Toronto from Kandahar, Afghanistan. It turns out, he didn’t need to return to Afghanistan to do so.

Daughter’s documentary 'A Kandahar Away' follows family’s visit to Prairie town

Aisha and Abdul in Kandahar, Sask. Aisha spent three years putting together A Kandahar Away, which explores her families connection to the hamlet in Saskatchewan, along with a variety of other topics. (Submitted by Aisha Jamal)

Finding a little piece of home was always the goal for Abdul Bari Jamal, who moved to Toronto from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

It turns out, he didn't need to return to Afghanistan to do so. Jamal bought parcels of land in Kandahar, Sask., for every member of his family. 

Abdul's daughter, filmmaker Aisha Jamal, documented her family as they travelled to the Saskatchewan community to visit for the first time. Aisha showed her film, A Kandahar Away, at the Hot Docs Film Festival earlier this year. 

Aisha told CBC Radio that she wasn't even aware of the land until recently.

"My dad didn't even tell me — it was my brother. He mentioned it in passing," Aisha said. "For me, it was more, sort of like, did he not realize how absurd the situation is?" 

Wynyard, Saskatchewan – home of the world famous chicken chariot races. A tradition that reaches back over 40 years and still brings the town together every summer. 5:09

Due to turmoil in the region, Aisha said her father felt as though he could never give his children a piece of his home.

So Kandahar, Sask., acts as a stand-in in his heart, according to Aisha. 

The Kandahar connection

Aisha said the Saskatchewan hamlet is named after the city in Afghanistan. 

"There's a connection through the name, but also, the Canadian military came and practised some manoeuvres here a few years ago, just because of the name, and getting some semblance of 'let's pretend this is Kandahar, Afghanistan," Aisha said. 

Aisha said she and her siblings haven't decided what to do with their plots of land just yet, but the last third of her documentary looks at what Abdul would like to do with the land.

What was it really like to move here from your country all those years ago? For many first generation Canadian immigrants, it's a question you ask of your parents as a way to understand them, and sometimes yourself. Aisha Jamal and her father Abdul Jamal join us to talk about Aisha's documentary A Kandahar Away. It premieres at Toronto's Hot Docs festival on May 1. 10:27

The documentary was shown in Wynyard, Sask., on Friday night.

"It's really, I think for me, kind of the most nerve-wracking screening," Aisha said of showing the film locally. "It is the people in the area that are in the film, so partly, the film is also a little bit of an ode to this really beautiful part of the country that I didn't know before I came." 

First time residents from both Kandahars meet

For the hamlet of Kandahar, located almost directly in between Wynyard and Dafoe along the Yellowhead Highway, the family's visit marked the first time people from Kandahar, Afghanistan visited. 

As a family of urbanites, the Jamal family has never even heard of the Hutterites. On their first visit, they learn the who, what, how of life in a Hutterite colony on the Prairies. 2:24

Aside from profiling her own family in the film, the lives of a few residents from Kandahar, Sask., are explored.

She said Denis and Charlotte Brakefield, who oversee the hamlet, share their experiences and historical knowledge of the community. 

John Burnfield, a well-known farmer in the area, is featured, as is a Cree man named Francis, according to Aisha.

Aisha said she was initially worried the family wouldn't get a warm reception. But that didn't turn out to be the case. 

"Instead they were very warm, very welcoming, they answered all my stupid questions," Aisha said. "In a sense I was the one who came in to it with a little bit more prejudice than they did."

With files from Afternoon Edition