News / Arts & Entertainment

Afghan Female Artist Beats the Odds

Afghan artist Malina Suliman is pictured inside The Venue art gallery in Kabul December 2, 2012.
Afghan artist Malina Suliman is pictured inside The Venue art gallery in Kabul December 2, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Charred bodies lie scattered against blood-stained walls and debris covers the ground. For Afghanistan, the only unusual thing in this gruesome scene is that the blood is red paint - and part of an art installation.

It's a work by Afghan artist Malina Suliman, 23, who risks her life, sometimes working by flashlight after dark, to create art in southern Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban and still one of the country's most dangerous areas.

A visitor views artwork at The Venue art gallery in Kabul December 2, 2012.
A visitor views artwork at The Venue art gallery in Kabul December 2, 2012.
Her pieces, which range from conceptual art to paintings and sculpture, are bold representations of the problems facing her generation and have drawn praise from top officials in Kandahar, making her exceptional in a place where women face even greater restrictions than in other parts of the country.

"Many people had never seen an art installation... Some were offended and others were hurt because they'd experienced it before,'' Suliman said of  "War and Chaos,'' which was in an exhibit last year and depicts the aftermath of a suicide bombing, an all too common event in Kandahar.

Her haunting, powerful pieces earned her an invitation last year to President Hamid Karzai's palace in Kabul, where she showed her art to the Afghan leader, who is also from Kandahar.

Suliman's artwork is now making waves in the Afghan capital of Kabul, where she lived after fleeing the violence of her native province as a child. In December, she had two exhibits there, a highlight of which was a sculpture of a woman in baggy clothing with a noose tied around her neck.

Afghan artist Malina Suliman paints graffiti on a wall in Kandahar city December 30, 2012.
Afghan artist Malina Suliman paints graffiti on a wall in Kandahar city December 30, 2012.
An exhibit in Kandahar, where the Taliban and tribal elders dominate public opinion, was the first there in three decades. She drew a mostly male crowd of around 100, including Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa and some of Karzai's relatives.

"I was taken aback by her work. I had only seen great art abroad, but never here,'' Wesa later told Reuters, recalling the exhibit, which featured a painting of a fetus in the womb suspended from a tree and being pulled in different ways. "I hope it persuades more women to do the same.''

Suliman said this piece, called "Today's Life'', reflected the frustrations of her generation.

"Before a child is born, the parents are already thinking that a son can support them and a daughter can be married off to a wealthy suitor. They don't stop to think what the child may want,'' she said.

Slow progress for art

Thirty years of war and conflict, starting with the Soviet invasion of 1979, effectively shelved Afghanistan's art scene. The austere 1996-2001 rule of the Taliban then banned most art outright, declaring it un-Islamic.

Since the Islamist group was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces almost twelve years ago, large Afghan cities have resurrected something of an art movement, but progress is slow.

Herat city, in the country's west, now has art studios for rent, while Mazar-e-Sharif in the north has an artist collective and a lively graffiti scene.

Suliman, who is self-confident and energetic with almond-shaped eyes, joined the Kandahar Fine Art Association, a relatively new, all-male group whose goal is to support and exhibit local art, one year ago.

The small collective of 10 artists caught the eye of the Ministry of Information and Culture, which funded and last year opened Kandahar's first art gallery, where Suliman has exhibited. Since she joined the collective, several more Kandahar-based female artists have come on board.

But the stakes remain high.

"One of our biggest fears is that people will mistake us for creating art for foreigners or working with NGOs. People who work with NGOs get shot without question in Kandahar,'' she said.

Afghan artist Malina Suliman paints graffiti on a wall in Kandahar city December 30, 2012.
Afghan artist Malina Suliman paints graffiti on a wall in Kandahar city December 30, 2012.
Despite her success, Suliman has received threatening phone calls warning her against attending her own exhibits, and the Taliban have spoken out against her.

Even creating her art must take place away from public view. She often waits until after dusk, working with a dim flashlight.

Suliman recalls her first exhibit in Kandahar last year, and how she trembled as she made her way towards the gallery, in fear of it being bombed.

"I was so scared... Whenever there is a gathering of government officials it becomes a target,'' she said.

But one of Suliman's greatest challenges lies at home. "The night of my first exhibit my family told me 'if you go, don't come back','' she said with a wry laugh.

While her sisters and mother now support her ambition and passion, her brothers and property developer father remain fiercely opposed -- attitudes typical for Afghanistan.

She is now looking to expand Kandahar's budding art scene to nearby Helmand, hoping to secure locally-sourced funds for workshops and training.

When asked if she is scared, she mentions her sculpture of the hanged woman and smiles.

"That's what happens to women when they ask for their rights in this country,'' she says, impudently.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

With over five million records sold worldwide, singer-songwriter MIKA is best known for his hit single “Grace Kelly.” MIKA joins "Border Crossings" to perform live and to talk with host Larry London about his latest CD “The Origin Of Love.”