Featuring Kabul

The experiences of modern art in Afghanistan

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Hamed Hasan Zada

After the rupture of the Taliban regime, the way for development in Afghanistan’s art scene was paved. Artists managed to take the new opportunities to create various pieces of art. It was a good time for modern art in Afghanistan’s art and culture scene.

Regarded as the reason for that change is the establishment of organisations and groups, the organisation of modern art exhibitions and programs and the creation of more modern pieces as well as the effort and talent of young Afghan artists who pushed the envelope to gather acceptance for new approaches to art, which did increase in comparison to the past.

Artists have created numerous works in divers areas of modern art, such as painting, calligraphy, and miniatures to name a few. Also included are areas that do not have a long tradition in Afghanistan’s art history like installations, modern sculptures, street art, video- and sound art, as well as modern music, photography and performance art.

Most of the artists are rather young and with their work they attempt to communicate current subjects such as war, violence, freedom, the fight against injustice, and philosophical and social issues. One of the most important personalities in Afghanistan’s modern art scene is Rahraw Omarzad, the manager of the Contemporary Art Center Afghanistan, a video artist himself, and the creator of the piece „Winning or Losing“.

Video by Rahraw Omerzad

Omarzad uses symbols, characteristics and significant surroundings within his works to illustrate the reality of Afghanistan’s past, present and future.

Scriptures, symbolic slogans and graffiti on the walls in Kabul belong to the works gathering the most attention from the public. Kabir Mokamel is one of the artists who believe in street art to change how society thinks for the better.

He painted several images on Kabul’s walls and showed symbolic pictures on big billboards in public spaces.

Wallpainting by Kabir Mokamel

He says that his works were received with big interest within the population, who serves as he best consultant because first of all it considers these more modern approaches as a form of art and also because of its ability to reflect on them.

Installation pieces also belong to the newer artistic experiences in Afghanistan which were displayed in recent exhibitions.

Melena Sulayman is one of the youngest Afghan artists who is creating installation pieces. Her work was shown in an exhibition titled „(Stop)“ and covered topics like inequality, violence and the lack of freedom.

Performance by Kobra Khademi

The art of the installation counts as one of the younger art ventures in Afghanistan. „(Wet Realities)“ are the current installations that were recently arranged by the artist Kobra Khademi in Kabul. The performance showed her slapping her own face for half an hour, in an effort to illustrate the problems and the pain of Afghan women who oppose abrasiveness.

Ali Arasch, one of the viewers who observed Kobra’s performance from up close, says that he was surprised and moved, like the rest of the audience. After having witnessed her performance, he now understands the amount of pain Afghan women have to endure.

Despite all of that do many Afghans have difficulties to digest the new experiences and accept them as a form of art.

The Afghan artists see the creation of new work as the best way to mirror the truth and voice their feelings.

Demure intellectuals think that steps like those are necessary to move modern art in Afghanistan forward.

It should be noted that most of these events happen in the province of Kabul and that they do neither take place nor are they discussed in more remote provinces.

The execution of exhibitions and art festivals as well as other programs and possibilities can play a pivotal role in the development of modern art in Afghanistan.

by Nabila Horakhsh, Kabul 2013

Thomas Büsch

Filmmaker, Founding Member and Secretary General of diyalog, promotion of cultural exchange with Turkey. Since 2012 he is also project manager of InEnArt.

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