Afghan female artist beats the odds to create

Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:07am EST
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By Miriam Arghandiwal

KABUL/KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (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 23-year-old Afghan artist Malina Suliman, 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.

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.

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 foetus in the womb suspended from a tree and being pulled in different ways. "I hope it persuades more women to do the same."   Continued...

An Afghan artist Malina Suliman paints graffiti on a wall in Kandahar city December 30, 2012. Charred bodies lay scattered against blood-stained walls in a recent installation by Afghan artist Malina Suliman. For Afghanistan, the only thing out of place in this gruesome scene is that the blood is not real, but is red paint. Picture taken on December 30, 2012. REUTERS/ Ahmad Nadeem