Art in Afghanistan Since 2001
During five years in power, the Taliban banned nearly the entire spectrum of creativity and performance – including clapping – and destroyed an estimated 80 percent of Afghani cultural heritage, from religious relics to film reels. But after the fundamentalist regime fell in December 2001, Kabul’s filmmakers began to reveal hidden caches of film negatives; musicians, dancers and actors returned to the stage; and senior artists at the Senai Art School began destroying their own work, taking a wet sponge to paintings they had carefully overpainted with watercolours once again revealing faces and images not approved by the Taliban.
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, contemporary art has seen a remarkable resurgence in Afghanistan and since 2009, international funding for the arts has flowed into Afghanistan from the United States and Europe. In 2012, Kabul-based artist Aman Mojadidi curated a 2012 Documenta exhibit in Kabul which showcased 12 contemporary Afghan artists whose work includes digital photography, textiles, abstract painting, filmmaking and mixed media.
Afghanistan has various art schools around the country, and its main art spaces are the National Museum of Afghanistan, the National Gallery of Afghanistan and the National Archives of Afghanistan in Kabul. The Centre for Contemporary Art Afghanistan (CCAA) is a small art centre in Kabul dedicated to the promotion and development of the art scene and local artists through workshops, exhibitions and other educational programes.
Established in August 2004 by a group of mostly young, female artists, the Centre for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan (CCAA) is an independent artistic and cultural center in Kabul. National and international artists and experts now form the center’s advisory committee. In 2006, the CCAA changed focus and established the only women’s art center in Afghanistan. Today, it provides equal opportunities for men and women, and is also working with children.
The CCAA aims to promote the advancement and empowerment of women as an integral part of the process of democratization and civilization. The center also provides a new artistic atmosphere for self-expression and individuality. Currently, the CCAA is working with artists in the visual arts, installation, painting, video art, photography, and miniatures.
Background of the Kabul Art Project
In 2011, Christina Hallmann was reunited with a childhood friend from Afghanistan with whom she had lost contact with for 17 years. This reunion triggered a renewed interest and engagement with a country she knew so little about outside of what was reported by western media outlets had been reporting through all phases of war and occupation. Over the next year she began to meet more Afghan people through social media outlets such as Facebook and through these efforts she began to discover the richness of their culture though their music, film, people, language, landscape, and of course visual art. In 2013, Christina founded the Kabul Art Project, a project that supports and promotes Afghan artists and over the past few years the Kabul Art Project has held exhibitions in Germany and now Canada, and connects the artists of Afghanistan with art lovers, collectors, galleries and media worldwide in an ongoing effort to promote and support the renaissance of their cultural identity after many years of being repressed and quashed by a succession of extremist government regimes.
Art is Freedom.
Contemporary Art from Afghanistan is very young. Until thirteen years ago most of artistic work was prohibited by the Taliban regime under penalty of death. Contemporary Art had to be re-discovered by the new generation of Afghan artists. Supporting Afghan Art is not only a support to the artists, but it enriches everyone who didn’t know of it before. The Art, especially Contemporary Art, is still viewed with scepticism by the Afghan society, devalued, sometimes disrespected and the performing of Art is still posing a danger to the artists and their families. Within the last two years some of our artists experienced several cases of deliberate destruction of their artworks, even by government institutions such as the National Gallery in Kabul, and some artists were attacked and threatened by Taliban.
Kabul Art Project has been supporting and promoting talented Afghan artists since January 2013. We have become one of the most present platforms to connect Afghan Contemporary Artists to foreign media, exhibitors and private art collectors, or simply lovers of art, where Afghan art was greatly underrepresented before.
We have exhibited original paintings and drawings by our 27 artists from Afghanistan in Germany with more exhibitions to come, and we promote their artworks on a daily basis through social media and our website. New contacts and connections are being made; foreign media and exhibitors reach out to our artists through us. Just through our website and facebook we could handle a good number of art sales from Afghanistan to Canada, the United States, Europe and inside Afghanistan.
I am thankful and also proud that KABUL ART PROJECT made it to Canada and I thank Paul Crawford and the Penticton Art Gallery for inviting the project and displaying the biggest collection of Contemporary Afghan Art outside Afghanistan!
Christina Hallmann, Founder Kabul Art Project
Christina Hallmann was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany in 1976 and after the death of her parents she was raised by her brother who was nine years her elder, who supported and encouraged the pursuit of her musical and artistic ambitions. While painting and drawing was more important during early years, by the time she turned 13 Christina focused the majority of efforts on her musical career where she played and sang in several bands and on a number of studio productions. Eventually she studied sound engineering becoming a well-regarded live sound engineer. Becoming a mother and later a single mother prompted her to step back from late-night rock concerts and to reconsider and refocus her creative skills and reinventing herself as a freelance illustrator and web designer. Her illustration work attracted the attention of Steve McCurry studios who took notice of one of her paintings shared on Facebook and in 2013 they contacted her to commission a rendition of Steve McCurry’s well-known photo of Sharbat Gul “The Afghan Girl” and most popular National Geographic cover photo of all times, for the exhibition “The Power of Photography: 125 Years National Geographic” at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles. She continues to be the driving force behind the Kabul Art project and has been a tireless advocate and champion of the Kabul Art Project the organization she founded and has been responsible for bringing these artists work to an international stage and without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.