Permissible Arms

Cleaning Out and Cleaning Up

Posted in afghanistan by Karaka on 8 August 2010

The At War blog this week covered modern art in Afghanistan–not a topic you see that often. Of even more particular interest to me, all the artists are women. This summer saw a show at Kabul University featuring 18 female artists enrolled in the fine arts program there.

For one week in June two spacious auditoriums at Kabul University hosted a large exhibition on the themes of pollution and the environment.

The exhibition had two remarkable qualities: All 18 participating artists were women, and the genre was modern art, a rarity in Afghanistan. Even today Kabul and Herat are the only Afghan provinces — out of 34 — to have a faculty of fine arts in their universities.

“The curriculum at most of our arts institutions has not changed for years,” said Rahraw Omarzad, the director of the Center for Contemporary Arts — Afghanistan. “Such copying and copying only kills the creativity of our artists,” Mr. Omarzad said. “It gives them no opportunity, no room to develop a style of their own.”

The public, too, has always been skeptical of a formal arts education. “Families saw art only as vulgar song and dance and nothing more,” said Prof. Alam Farhad, the director of fine arts at Kabul University. “A fine arts degree did not lead to a job, or a prosperous life.”

I wish there were more images of the artwork–there’s just enough to tantalize, but not enough to really give an understanding of the themes and emotions of the work there.

This dichotomy–the work of these artists and the cover of Time last week–is hard to wrestle with. What art would be lost if the Taliban were in power? And what would happen to the women who created such art?


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