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Women and Modern Art in Afghanistan
For one week in June two spacious auditoriums at Kabul University hosted a large modern art exhibition on the themes of pollution and the environment.
The exhibition had two remarkable qualities: All 18 participating artists were women, and the genre was modern art, a rarity in Afghanistan. Even today Kabul and Herat are the only Afghan provinces with a faculty of fine arts in their universities, and traditionally the curriculum had not changed for years.
“Such copying and copying only kills the creativity of our artists,” said Rahraw Omarzad, the director of the Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan.
“It gives them no opportunity, no room to develop a style of their own.”
The public, too, has recently been skeptical of a formal arts education.
“When the Taliban left in 2001, we had seven professors and eight students in our department,” Professor Farhad said. But in the past three years, the art scene has changed in terms of inclusiveness and creativity.
“Today, I have 700 students here, and close to 20 percent of them are girls. Quite often, I have to turn down students because we don’t have enough space for them,” Professor Farhad said, his eyes gleaming in triumph.
“We are going through a period in which the society is having a deep realization about art and what it can offer,” he said. “The presence of 20 to 22 television channels, and the market that they bring with them, has really changed people’s perceptions about art and its practicality.”
Over the past three years he initiated two new majors in the fine arts department: digital graphic and cinema. The interest has been tremendous. In digital graphic, 94 students are enrolled, 53 of them women, the highest percentage in any of the faculties.
“Area Pollution,” by Arezo Waseq, part of a large exhibition in June by the Center for Contemporary Arts ? Afghanistan at Kabul University. (Adam Ferguson/VII Network for The New York Times)
(written by Nujib Mashal)