Art galleries are still out of bounds to me at the moment so I thought a little trip into the news would be enjoyable. Not coronavirus of course, or Huawei but deeper down in the stories. I came across Artlords, which is a play on words commonly attributable to Afghanistan and Kabul; warlords or druglords.
Artlords is a collective of artists who, since 2014 have been painting murals in the city to reflect public opinion. In a world where institutional racism, gender discrimination and corruption are being more openly challenged, it is good to see the views of the public being expressed so confidently in Kabul
Kabul is a city whose architecture has become dominated by the erection of concrete blast walls to protect the government, institutional and diplomatic buildings. These have become the support, the canvas, for public targeted artistic challenges. Artlords method is to strike quickly with a mural painted with the aid of electronic projection and a group of volunteers working together.
With very few exceptions these murals have been left undisturbed. The mural featuring Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord recently pardoned and accepted in parliament, was quickly removed by his supporters. The whole idea of murals challenging corruption and political differences attracts polarised reception. While showing a challenging message some argue that by decorating the blast walls they give the structures legitimacy.
The murals such as “Let’s not plant anything but the seed of love and friendship in this pure land,”, shows the profile of Tetsu Nakamura, the murdered Head of Japanese Aid Agency. It reveals the beautiful and traditional art of the region. Evocative of old Persian illustrations there is the face in profile, nature in the tree and the gorgeous text showing us the title. Beautiful motifs of the East!
Afghanistan and this little story deep in the bowels of the newspapers reminds us that away from our own difficulties the world out there continues with its troubles and corruption and the public needs to be heard.