Afghanistan: Exhibit of work by female artists in Kabul
Under the hardline Taliban regime, women were forbidden from leaving home without a male relative as an escort and girls were not allowed to go to school. Figurative art was banned and even destroyed.
"I couldn't paint during the Taliban regime because I didn't have enough material, and I wasn't allowed to go out and buy paint," said 22-year-old Maryam Formuli.
Echoing the frustration, Fareha Ghezal, 19, added, "I was young and couldn't go to the art centre to learn because as a girl, I wasn't allowed to go to school."
The artists, who ranged in age from seven to 26, guided visitors around the gymnasium of a Kabul high school, describing their work and taking photographs with the viewers.
"It was like a wedding party. There were a lot of people enjoying it," said 23-year-old Maliha Hashemi, dressed in the artists' uniform for the exhibit, a black knee-length jacket and a red, green and black scarf, the colours of the Afghan flag.
"Before the exhibition, we were afraid that the visitors wouldn't be satisfied with our work, but when it opened, all the visitors were encouraging and impressed," Hashemi said.
Several paintings depicted women shrouded in the all-encompassing burka that many Afghan women are forced to wear to protect them from the eyes of men who are not related to them.
One woman described her work - a grid of woven string with a tangled knot in the middle - as the impeccable order of the world outside Afghanistan, and the chaos those outside forces have caused within the country.
One extraordinary aspect about the show was the conversation the works sparked among strangers in a society in which men and women who aren't related rarely talk to each other.
One conversation illustrated how Afghan men and women can give remarkably different interpretations of a painting - and a woman's place in society.
Khadija Hashemi, 21, asked one man what he thought of her painting depicting an enormous caravan of women wearing blue burkas and riding donkeys into the desert horizon, with men accompanying them on foot.
The visitor said to her that the painting showed how much respect these men have for the women, letting them ride comfortably on the donkeys as the men suffered on foot on the difficult trek.
Not quite, she said.
"They don't have any role in the selection of the path. They don't have the choice to change the path. Instead they just have to keep on moving where the donkeys are led by the men," she said.
-Nargis Nemat contributed to this report.
6 March 2008
- Saudi Arabia – Women Traveling Alone without Permission of Guardians, Under Study
- Displaced women and girls trapped in Afghanistan’s cities
- War with Isis: Meet the Kurdish women's militia fighting for their families west of the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn
- 'I just want to go to school': how Afghan law continues to fail child brides
- Tens of female students poisoned in Samangan
- SIGN THE PETITION: President Hamid Karzai: We call on you not to sign the new Law on Criminal Procedures
- VNC Statement: The Vatican's Crackdown Against the Nuns Is Unacceptable and Deplorable
- Afghanistan: End the Unlawful Criminalisation of Women and Girls Based on 'Moral Grounds'
- Afghanistan: Women included into Afghan delegation to Bonn
- WLUML Statement on Afghan women's exclusion from participation at Bonn