Afghans painting and photographing in the middle of war

Tony Blair in Afghanistan, cartoon by Steve Bell

Associated Press reports:

[Afghan painter Mohammed Akbar] Salam‘s work shifted from dry, realist images of street scenes and landscapes into sad and often angry critiques of life through Afghan eyes, in a color palette and style evocative of Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and their contemporaries.

His most striking painting, which was part of an exhibit in neighboring Iran, depicts a Chinook helicopter _ commonly used by the U.S. military _ flying menacingly above a pair of scared, fleeing chickens.

Military aircraft and American and NATO forces are common sights in this war-torn country. …

[Photographer Rahraw] Omarzad’s recent photos document the rough lives of Afghan children or simple everyday scenes that symbolize the shaky Afghan leadership.

In one photo criticizing the government, an old wall has been painted over with another layer, crumbling because the old paint underneath was not removed.

But continuing fear of the government and warlords constrain these artists from going beyond the metaphorical when it comes to commentary on Afghan politics.

Salam’s Chinook painting lashes out at the U.S. military, but his criticism of local power brokers is more cryptic.

He disguises corrupt Afghan politicians as two balloons in one painting; Afghans’ distrust of their leaders is depicted in a video that shows people joining a man under his leaking umbrella, only to get wet and leave.

“The government says there is freedom of speech, but if a journalist does something, he is jailed,” Salam said, as he bemoaned the government’s lack of support for the arts.

“If I do something, the gunmen can come and take me away.”

6 thoughts on “Afghans painting and photographing in the middle of war

  1. I contact you today because I have a blog about Talents of Afghanistan

    I am trying to build a virtual art gallery where i want to expose
    Afghani artist and Artists in Afghanistan, in order to give the
    general opinion a different view on the country, and show the world
    that Afghanistan doesn’t necessarily means war and terror.

    I really liked you work and would like to propose you to send me
    photos of your painting so that i could post them to the blog. This is
    entirely free of charge as i do it as my hobby. Of course you name
    (and short text of your choice) would be mentioned for each of the
    painting you send, and I would also link back to your website. It
    would be nice if you could have somewhere on your site a link to the

    Also, if you know other Afghani artist around you, please feel free to
    have them contact me and send me their work. Again it doesn’t cost a
    dime as i do it on my spare time as a voluntary project.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    Have a great day!


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