First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to government of Japan and UNESCO Office for conduction of this important event. I have come from Afghanistan, the country where has preserved the Buddha Statues, the greatest cultural glory of mankind and the proudest historical witness for 1600 years.
I have come from Afghanistan, the country where has expectantly hugged the wounded and torn identity of the world for 16 years. Today, Bamiyan has come to Japan. Bamiyan, the (...)
Enchaining the artworks in Kabul is related to the return of the Taliban
Wednesday 27 June 2012, by
Yet it is 2012 and more than a year and half is left for the pull-out of the foreign troops from Afghanistan but the fear of return of the Taliban is already overcastting everywhere in the country while the people speculate the aftermaths of 2014 differently.
In addition to military aspect of day by day increasing of guerilla attacks of the Taliban to the major cities, their cultural influences on the governmental offices are as dangerous as their military attacks.
One of the most recent cases is the misbehavior of the Afghan government officials with the artists from ethnic Hazara in Kabul.
In midday June 21st 2012 before the opening of the exhibition “Study of View” supported by Documenta in Kabul, the Minister of Information and Culture and some of his men rushed to the exhibition venue where they used violence against the artists and applied restrictions against works of three artists, all from the minor ethnic Hazara; Mohsen Taasha, Amin Taasha and Azizullah Hazara. The Minister and his men banned four art works in total and confiscated them all.
They took three artists away and kept them in custody for an hour and then, an order was released by the Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan that prohibits the participation of these artists and their works in any other exhibitions in Afghanistan.
Mohsen Taasha is a young artist from Afghanistan. He is the winner of Afghanistan Contemporary Art Prize 2010 and a participant of DOCUMENTA 13 this year in Kassel Germany. This year at the Documenta, he was considered the youngest artist ever participated at the Documenta Contemporary Art Exhibition.
Before Documenta, Mohsen Taasha’s paintings and installations were being exhibited in Paris and Prague as well.
The painting brought him misfortune is called “A Man Reading Quran, Without Knowing the Meaning.”
"A Man Reading Quran, Without Knowing the Meaning" by Mohsen Taasha is being considered non-Islamic in Kabul and was banned and confiscated by the Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan!
The confiscated painting was done after Mohsen Taasha participated in a workshop called “Study of View”, supported by Documenta in Kabul. The aim of the workshop was to extend the ways of how artists view things around him and how interpret things including existed art works by other artists.
“A Man Reading Quran, Without Knowing the Meaning” is not an original work, but is Mohsen Taasha’s interpretation from another painting exposed in the National Gallery of Afghanistan that is called “A Man Reading Holy Quran”.
As explained by Mohsen Wahidi, “When you read Quran, without knowing the meaning, it is like thousands of words dance in your head.” That is why it caused the anger of Minister of Information and Culture of Afghanistan.
Mohsen Taasha in his statement to the Hazara People website said that he has never intended to harm anyone’s feelings, it is just his artistic expression of the fact, that even to be a good Muslim and a good follower of Islam religion, literacy and knowing the meaning of Quran is a must.
With all these difficulties and restrictions, as long as the ministry does not close his workplace, he still continues his works for art and freedom of expression in his underground art factory in Kabul that is called Taasha Underground Art Factory and Gallery.
It was not only him being insulted for his opinion as an artist, but the work of another fellow artist was also insulted, banned and confiscated by the ministry.
“Dancing Letters and Words” is another banned and confiscated work that belongs to the artist, Azizullah Hazara. The officials of the Ministry have left a nonsense statement regarding this work; “Playing and joking with Arabic words and letters is considered against holy religion of Islam.”
This work of course, is based on a historical fact about the Hazaras and had a political message that is why it was very sensible for the Minister and his men.
The painting “Dancing Letters and Words” highlights the mass-massacre of the Hazaras by tyrant Afghan King Amir Abdurrahman Khan in late 19th century, who massacred the Hazaras and put their heads to sign the road ways for the return of his soldiers to Kabul. This painting wanted to sign the roads by Alphabetic letters to raise the question of; “which one is more sacred, human’s head and blood or letters of a language like Arabic?”
The order of the Minister of Information and Culture of Afghanistan says that Mohsen Taasha and his two fellow artists Azizullah Hazara and Amin Taasha are not allowed to participate in any exhibitions thereafter in Afghanistan.
After the incident, many artists in Kabul objected on Minister’s censorship and discrimination. The website of Hazara People International Network wrote an objection letter condemning censorship and ethnic discriminations applied against Hazara artists.
Based on the historical evidences, the Hazaras, who have always been the main victims of ethnic cleansing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were prosecuted by the Taliban very fiercely during their rule on Afghanistan. They still have in mind how the Taliban mass-massacred them in Bamyan, Mazar e Sharif and Yakawlang.
With the new era after the fall of Taliban’s Emirate in Kabul, a new horizon begin to appear for the vulnerable groups such as the women, ethnic and religious minorities and the cultural activists such as the artists, writers, filmmakers and enlightening intellectuals in Afghanistan who were all previously tortured by the Taliban.
Among all, the Hazaras, with all challenges and discriminations against them, taking advantage of the relative freedom in the new era, began to move towards democracy and development. They have been very active in women education, mass literacy program among the people, sport, art and different cultural activities in the passed decade for which they gained honors and credits for Afghanistan.
After these years of democracy experiences, now the fear of return of the Taliban can easily destroy their imaginary castle of prosperity they had built for them in these ten years.
And now, the lately efforts made in rush to bring back the Taliban on power, makes thing nonsense for the groups who have suffered during the Taliban. They believe if the Taliban are to come back on power, this time by the direct support of the west, then there were no need for this long-ten-years of blind war against them.
Seeing the clearance of path by the government officials for the Talibanism ideology already, a grand majority of the urban population, could have the most fearful nightmare that is the return of the Taliban on power again after these years of relatively open period for the mass-media and artistic expressions.
The lately unpleasant signs of neo-extremism in Afghanistan reveal the tendency of the government towards fundamentalism could it be for the purpose of contenting the terrorist group of Taliban for joining the government or it is the action of the pro-Taliban elements who are already placed in the government body. Whatsoever it is, these suspicious signs are not considered as good signs for a peaceful 2014.
As a matter of fact, so far the most important achievements during these ten years of post-Taliban era (2002-2012) for which the government officials always boast, are the relatively freedom to the women as the most vulnerable population of the society, the relatively openness of ground for the media and press, openness for artistic and cultural activities and the return of the artists in the art galleries, otherwise the long-going costly war would seem to be aimless without guaranteeing a real democracy for the majority of people of Afghanistan.
The illegal procedure on going by the Afghan Government, through which the terrorist Taliban are not only being forgiven but also being rewarded and compensated with money, is a kind of encouragement for the terrorism, illegality and organized criminality in the country.
While on the other hand, applying restrictions on artists, writers and journalists by the name of religion is a deadly and very dangerous way of quieting the real voices of the society.
Hazara filmmaker and blogger in exile (Milan – Italy)