Contextual Content

Afghanistan’s other voices: the artist

Kabul-based arts professor Ali Kahn is one of a tiny number of Afghan artists who manage to make a living from their art. Persecuted for his ethnicity and forced to hide his work during the Taliban rule, he describes how his painting has been influenced by those experiences.


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Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: Ali Kahn, nicknamed ["yez-DAR-nee"]—literally "what God created"—is a professor of art and one of Kabul’s best-known artists. He has been painting for 17 years, throughout his country’s long history of problems.

ALI KAHN, ARTIST: Once I was painting a portrait, and Taliban came and told me, "Why you are painting a portrait? It’s a big sin. You shouldn’t do it." And he cut with his knife. Then it’s, "You shouldn’t paint anymore." After that I only painted at home, and hide it somewhere in back, underground, or in a small room. I hide it. I was [inaudible] of my family, "You shouldn’t do it. If Taliban came in here, they would kill you or put you in jail." I said, "Okay, no matter. I am interested, and I do it."

VOICEOVER: A Shia Hazara, a much-persecuted group, ["yez-DAR-nee"] volunteers to teach orphans to draw and paint, some of them victims of the Taliban era.

SCHOOLGIRL (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Should I leave this part blank?

KAHN, ARTIST: Use a mixture of white and brown to paint that one.

VOICEOVER: It is a persecution that occupies much of ["yez-DAR-nee"]’s art, not least the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas, an act of cultural vandalism that resonated most with the Hazaras.

INTERVIEWER: And what’s the story behind this one? I mean, it’s the girl saying something.

KAHN: Yeah. Boys and girls, they’re Hazara people, and they are talking between themselves of why Taliban destroyed the Buddha.

INTERVIEWER: [inaudible]

KAHN: [inaudible] is not here. It was a Hazara nationality area, and the face of the Buddha was like Hazara. One of the government—I don’t know exactly his name—he cut the face to destroy the history of the Hazara people, and then Taliban came, destroyed the whole Buddha. Our neighbors doesn’t want Afghanistan to have a heritage, so they destroy it, like Pakistan.

VOICEOVER: Despite being optimistic at first after the Taliban’s fall, recent attacks in Kabul have made him think about leaving.

KAHN: The situation is getting worse than the previous years, when the beginning of Karzai government. The beginning, it was very good security, everything. But now it’s getting worse. The security is getting very bad.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.