Afghan women artists show their spunk | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 15, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 15, 2008

Afghan women artists show their spunk

Display of art works by Afghan women artists.

Just recently this correspondent had the rare opportunity to view an exhibition displaying the works of Afghan women artists. This first of its kind function was named “A new start.” Instead of the usual Page 3 crowd milling around at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in Delhi, there were a number of genuine art lovers with a passion for the medium. Among the gathering at the opening were important personages such as Gursharan Kaur, wife of the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, Dr Karan Singh, president of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Pavan K Varma, director general of ICCR.
The works that appealed to me: One depicting a chess board with three chess men reveals how women have been helpless, subjugated pawns for too long in the world. Then there was Mirror of History by Zarghuna Hotak (2007). This work, in acrylic on canvas, shows a woman looking at her reflection in a mirror. Perhaps she doesn't recognise who she is any more. She seems to have lost her entire identity thanks to the chains that men have put on her. She could be an educated woman but the world still knocks all the stuffing out of her. Perhaps she needs to look in the mirror for reassurance.
Instead of pontificating, here are some voices from the exhibition:
Sughand, assistant producer with NDTV Good Times: "I am a total art lover. I really like this work by Shamsia, titled Ommolbanin (2007), which is acrylic on canvas. This painting is about borders. There is a window view from which you can see the whole world. You are inside it and you are watching trees grow and the changing seasons of spring, autumn and winter. Everything is all behind the scenes.
"Then there is A New Geography (2007) by Rada Akbar. You can see at first hand how women have been locked up somewhere and all they know about the world outside is in their imagination. She wants to break free but is totally swamped. It is a very joyful colour combination of red, yellow, a tinge of green and blue."
Shuchi Khanna, art teacher at Sanskriti School: "In one painting there are no faces, just burkha-clad women and everything is behind wraps. There is blood all around and it depicts the plight of the women of Afghanistan. I think it is a big landmark that the Afghan women have been able to come out and exhibit here."
Vandana Shourie, architect and artist: "This work by Mariam Nabil Kamal, titled Freedom of Expression (2007), is given very figuratively and shows lots of mikes and a face upside down which is a bit confusing. You can be in any position but should be able to speak out, hence the mikes."
Gursharan Singh: "Thousands of women have not realised the gravity of losing their husbands, sons and daughters. Thousands have also lost their lives or been seriously injured by continuing violence. The violence has wrecked Afghanistan in the last two decades. I believe that women have a critical role in rejuvenating the social structure in Afghanistan and should express themselves vocally."
Truly a good show put up by the ICCR together with Centre for Contemporary Arts, Afghanistan and Embassy of India, Kabul.

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