Sunday, March 23, 2008

There Is Beauty Here

By Devyani Rao, "Aesthetics In A Time Of War" - Tehelka Magazine - New Delhi, India
Vol 5, Issue 12, March 29, 2008

A young painter rejuvenates art in Afghanistan, drawing on its rugged landscape and Sufi traditions

Its products can be demolished, but its spirit is indestructible. Creativity can flower in the most leached soil, even in a country ravaged by war and hardship, where precious art has been destroyed — as the Bamiyan Buddhas were — and where the religious orthodoxy places impossible restrictions on art.

Talented artists in Afghanistan are once again trying to popularise the appreciation of art and for inspiration, they look to their country’s stunning landscape and rich heritage.

Born in Hazarajat in 1979 into the ethnic Hazara minority, Yazdani Ali Khan is one of Afghanistan’s most prominent artists today.

After graduating with a fine arts degree from the University of Kabul, he was one of nine people from Kabul and Herat to be selected by the University of Tokyo for a Master’s Degree at its Centre for Fine Arts.

Today, his sketches are priced between $50 and $70, while his paintings go for a price that ranges between $100 to $1700, which means that his clients are primarily foreigners and non-resident Afghans; the average local citizen’s income ranges between $50 and $100 a month.

His professional trajectory has not been an easy one, what with the war and the religious extremism of the Taliban.

“The Mullahs think of art as a sin”, Khan laughs. During the Taliban regime, he had painted and taught art inside his house and since the depiction of live beings in paintings was prohibited, he could only draw inanimate objects or landscapes.

“One day, a Talib came to my house where I had kept a single portrait that I had done. He beat me and threatened to take me to jail,” says Khan. He could not sell his paintings at the time, and took up odd jobs to make money so he could continue buying his art materials.

He ran afoul of the extremists on another occasion, while exhibiting his work at Kabul University. One of the paintings had a tiny bird in it. “The Taliban came and cut it out,” Khan recalls.

Khan says that although art had virtually died out in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, things are slowly getting better. Indeed, at the Rumi and Sufi — two popular Afghani cuisine restaurants in Kabul, frequented by foreigners and aristocratic Afghans — one can see the works of a few other new artists apart from Yazdani Ali Khan.

Two of them are his brother, Hamid Yazdani, and his sister. She, however, uses just her surname to sign her work. Karim Sharifi, the manager of Sufi, says that although the Taliban forbade the painting of living beings, there is promise in the fact that, each year, the department of Fine Arts at Kabul University graduates several students.

Khan attributes much of his success to his teacher, Najibullah Musafir, an artist who encouraged him to develop his own style. Among his best-selling paintings are those of the Sufi — whirling dervishes whose movements, elegance and spirituality is captured beautifully in Khan’s work.

However, much of his work, and that of his contemporaries, is in the realist style, reflecting the current needs of the people of this war-torn land. It reminds them that there is beauty here, and a gentler side to life.

Rahman Assad, an Afghan businessman puts it well when he says, “The sensitivity to be able to find beauty around you and turn it into art at a time when the country suffers from insecurity, poverty and depression, is an important contribution towards society.

It reminds people that Afghanistan also has a beautiful and rich culture.”

1 comment:

darvish said...

Alhamdulillah! It the appreciation of beauty is the proof of God's existence.

Ya Haqq!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

There Is Beauty Here
By Devyani Rao, "Aesthetics In A Time Of War" - Tehelka Magazine - New Delhi, India
Vol 5, Issue 12, March 29, 2008

A young painter rejuvenates art in Afghanistan, drawing on its rugged landscape and Sufi traditions

Its products can be demolished, but its spirit is indestructible. Creativity can flower in the most leached soil, even in a country ravaged by war and hardship, where precious art has been destroyed — as the Bamiyan Buddhas were — and where the religious orthodoxy places impossible restrictions on art.

Talented artists in Afghanistan are once again trying to popularise the appreciation of art and for inspiration, they look to their country’s stunning landscape and rich heritage.

Born in Hazarajat in 1979 into the ethnic Hazara minority, Yazdani Ali Khan is one of Afghanistan’s most prominent artists today.

After graduating with a fine arts degree from the University of Kabul, he was one of nine people from Kabul and Herat to be selected by the University of Tokyo for a Master’s Degree at its Centre for Fine Arts.

Today, his sketches are priced between $50 and $70, while his paintings go for a price that ranges between $100 to $1700, which means that his clients are primarily foreigners and non-resident Afghans; the average local citizen’s income ranges between $50 and $100 a month.

His professional trajectory has not been an easy one, what with the war and the religious extremism of the Taliban.

“The Mullahs think of art as a sin”, Khan laughs. During the Taliban regime, he had painted and taught art inside his house and since the depiction of live beings in paintings was prohibited, he could only draw inanimate objects or landscapes.

“One day, a Talib came to my house where I had kept a single portrait that I had done. He beat me and threatened to take me to jail,” says Khan. He could not sell his paintings at the time, and took up odd jobs to make money so he could continue buying his art materials.

He ran afoul of the extremists on another occasion, while exhibiting his work at Kabul University. One of the paintings had a tiny bird in it. “The Taliban came and cut it out,” Khan recalls.

Khan says that although art had virtually died out in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, things are slowly getting better. Indeed, at the Rumi and Sufi — two popular Afghani cuisine restaurants in Kabul, frequented by foreigners and aristocratic Afghans — one can see the works of a few other new artists apart from Yazdani Ali Khan.

Two of them are his brother, Hamid Yazdani, and his sister. She, however, uses just her surname to sign her work. Karim Sharifi, the manager of Sufi, says that although the Taliban forbade the painting of living beings, there is promise in the fact that, each year, the department of Fine Arts at Kabul University graduates several students.

Khan attributes much of his success to his teacher, Najibullah Musafir, an artist who encouraged him to develop his own style. Among his best-selling paintings are those of the Sufi — whirling dervishes whose movements, elegance and spirituality is captured beautifully in Khan’s work.

However, much of his work, and that of his contemporaries, is in the realist style, reflecting the current needs of the people of this war-torn land. It reminds them that there is beauty here, and a gentler side to life.

Rahman Assad, an Afghan businessman puts it well when he says, “The sensitivity to be able to find beauty around you and turn it into art at a time when the country suffers from insecurity, poverty and depression, is an important contribution towards society.

It reminds people that Afghanistan also has a beautiful and rich culture.”

1 comment:

darvish said...

Alhamdulillah! It the appreciation of beauty is the proof of God's existence.

Ya Haqq!