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.
[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.”