By Manijeh Rezapoor 

Afghan artists reunite for Nimrouz Exhibition in Tehran 

November 7, 2017

TEHRAN – A group of Afghan artists from all corners of the world have come together under one roof at Tehran’s Niavaran Cultural Center to recall memories of good days spent in unity by showcasing their works at the Nimrouz Exhibition.

Organized by Iranian sculptor Maryam Kuhestani, the exhibit takes its title from a province located in southwestern Afghanistan.

Kuhestani, who is also the curator of the showcase, came to talk with the Tehran Times on Sunday at Tehran’s Mellat Cineplex, which hosted the Afghan artists and some of their Iranian counterparts for a workshop.

She spoke of the difficult road she traversed to organize the exhibition.

“I started to work on the project last September. For 14 months I worked day and night. I actually searched in the social media. I only knew two Afghan artists living in Herat, and I found the other artists through their posts. I studied their posts and carefully watched their works and sent messages in Persian, French and English. I told them I am a sculptor and work with the Afghan child laborers here in Tehran and that I intend to hold an exhibition of Afghan artists here in Tehran.

“I was finally able to convince them since they could barely trust an individual as an organizer much less than an official organization. The entire idea was my own since I had worked with Afghan children here in Tehran and was looking for a way to display works by professional Afghan artists,” she said.

“The students here in Tehran were upset and depressed since they believed they were not artists and they would not be in a good situation if they were to return to their country,” she noted.

“So I decided to travel to Mazar-i-Sharif. I worked with several universities and worked with many students to make them believe it is safe and continued to find more artists from Afghanistan,” she explained.

Kuhestani said that she managed to gather works by 53 artists from 17 countries and display 143 works in the exhibit, adding that about 20 artists managed to attend the exhibit in Tehran.

“If the war is reflected in their works, it is not filled with stereotypes, it actually reflects the living experience of an artist, and they really have something to say. They have their own art and their own signature. It was not important where they live, what they have studied and what language they speak. 

“They all have one thing in common: that is, they are all good and have their own special characteristics,” she noted.

Kuhestani regretted the fact that works by Afghan artists have not had the chance to take part in any world auctions.

“We have good Iranian artists in world auctions, even good artists from Iraq but we have never had an artist from Afghanistan, and I believe if their works find their ways into world auctions, this would help them achieve some good progress and draw world attention. I believe they need to be known in the world and stand beside artists from other countries,” she asserted.

“This exhibit is a demonstration of the unflinching presence of the artists who, despite the disastrous storm confronting the esteemed Afghan community, do not sink into silence, who cleave this rocky clay and smooth the journey for the generations to come,” she added. 

Kuhestani has asked Arthibition, an Iranian online gallery, to set up a new section for Afghan artists. She also plans to take the artworks to Afghanistan for an exhibition, which will probably be held in May 2018. 

The collection is also on display online at Nimrouzexpo.com, which has been launched by Kuhestani.   

The German-based 24-year-old illustrator Moshtari Hilal is one of the promising young artists whose works have selected for the exhibition.

“I am searching for my own visual language to tell the story of my own family, which exists beyond national narratives,” Moshtari told the Tehran Times.

“For example, as you can see, I have a rather prominent nose and black hair, and most of the time, European beauty standards endeavor to repress this kind of face. As a result, many people have nose surgeries and bleach their hair in order to look more European, and I want to call critical attention to that in my works by drawing heavy, charismatic women with prominent noses,” she said.

Moshtari, who studied Middle East studies and politics, said that the opening ceremony for the exhibition was very emotional for her.

“It was really emotional to attend an exhibit for the first time in a Farsi-speaking country. All the people who came to visit the exhibit identified with the symbols and the images,” she added.

The exhibition is also showcasing works by Alibaba Awrang, a calligrapher who comes from Kabul.

He said, world media only cover war news in Afghanistan and added, “The news about this art exhibit certainly can cause changes, though briefly, in people’s mind about our country in the world.” 

“It gives a beautiful image of Afghanistan to the world. The artworks help to soothe the spirits of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

He opined that the artists show the impression they have taken from the society they live in, even though there might not be direct allusion to war.

“Discerning visitors can identify that the artist has created his/her work in a society where war still exists. Even the Afghan expatriates somehow reflect the impression of war in their works. They are even more worried because they have loved ones in Afghanistan,” he said.

“The exhibition has left a positive impression in our minds and hearts. I must say that in the hearts of every Afghan individual there is a joy to learn art and move towards creation,” he concluded.

Mohammad Israel Roya from San Francisco, ceramist Hossain Ghasemi from Tehran, photographer Sahraa Karimi from Kabul, painter Abdullatif Ghulami (Ishraq) from Kabul, Hamed Hassanzada from Istanbul and Abdul Naser Sawaby from Herat are some of the artists whose works are on view in the exhibit, which opened last Friday and will be running for two weeks.

Photo: Art aficionados visit the Nimrouz Exhibition, a showcase of a group of Afghan artists, at Tehran’s Niavaran Cultural Center on November 6, 2017. (IRNA/Amir-Reza Qassab-Barzi)

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