Monday, April 11, 2011

Environmental Arts in Iran & Afghanistan

"As if to help us change our perspective on war, discoveries within quantum physics suggest that the belief that we can achieve a position of dominance in relation to nature, life or each other is, ultimately, an illusion. Each of us is an expression of a vast sea or field of creative consciousness - invisible, and as yet barely recognised by us. We are all connected to each other through our participation in a great living web of life. It would seem that we are, literally, "our brother's keeper".

Anne Baring,
"The Web of Life"
I went to high school in Kabul, and although I have never been back to Afghanistan  or Iran, where I also spent time,  that part of the world is in my heart, and I try to keep informed. (AISK had a class reunion in 2003 - that would have been an experience!)
I felt like sharing some images about contemporary environmental art, and remembered a post in 2009. While surfing for "environmental art"  I found the above photograph created by participants in an environmental arts festival in Iran, in 2007 (Iranian Radio)  The story and images are also to be found at the Green Museum. I found the images so striking I wanted to share them again -  I take the liberty of re-copying here.**  And below, a show of  contemporary environmental arts in 2010 at the University of Kabul.  Amazingly, all participants are women, a stunning show of courage and creativity on their part. 
Color, Leaf, and Kavir:
Environmental Art Festival of Kerman

Nov 16, 2007

"The festival began in Vahdat Hall at Shahid Bahonar University in Kerman, with speeches and discussions on the concept of environmental arts.

On the third day of the festival artists gathered in Shahdad Kavir and presented their works in a kavir (desert) background. This area is one of the most attractive outlooks of Kavir because of its statue-like walls.  200 young artists and art teachers of Kerman Province joined the festival."

"The participants were mainly from Kerman province coming from various universities. The initiative was taken by the scientific association of the painting course of the Saba Arts and Architecture School of Shahid Bahonar University. Environmental art festivals have been held during the last few years in various parts of the country. The Pardiss international center has created seven festivals. " (

“Area Pollution,” by Arezo Waseq,  Center for Contemporary Arts, Kabul University.

August 6, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — For one week in June two auditoriums at Kabul University hosted a large exhibition on the themes of pollution and the environment.  The exhibition had two remarkable qualities: All 18 participating artists were women, and the genre was modern art, a rarity in Afghanistan. Even today Kabul and Herat are the only Afghan provinces — out of 34 — to have a faculty of fine arts in their universities.

A collaborative piece titled “Fall in Spring,” 
by Arefa Honryar, Zarghona Hotak, Sodaba Mehrayan, Sara Nabil and Arezo Waseq
In the 1990s came the Taliban. Music was banned, and art was limited to calligraphy and the drawing of immortal shapes........"When the Taliban left in 2001, we had seven professors and eight students in our department,” Professor Farhad said. "But in the past three years, the art scene has changed in terms of inclusiveness and creativity.  Today, I have 700 students  and close to 20 percent of them are girls. Quite often, I have to turn down students because we don’t have enough space for them,” Professor Farhad said, his eyes gleaming in triumph."

“Health and Fission,” by Manizha Ahwad
"In the first couple of years of President Hamid Karzai’s government, the appearance of women on television was frowned upon. Television channels broadcast only male singers and artists.  Gradually, the presence of women increased, but it cost the lives of several young women in the media to get there.  Zakia Zaki, Sanga Amach and Shaima Rezayee are among the many female artists and presenters who were killed for the crime of appearing on television and trying to widen the role of women. Some female artists continue to battle the stigma, while others have turned to single-sex art centers that are more socially acceptable.  The Center for Contemporary Arts — Afghanistan is one of these centers. Founded in 2004, it welcomed both male and female artists, but Mr. Omarzad soon realized that it was women who were most in need of a safe environment in which to work. For Environment Day, auditoriums at Kabul University were turned into galleries dedicated to the theme."

Scream’, by Marzia Nazary

** some other environmental arts sites : (
ecoartspace blog
Environmental arts (Orion Magazine)
Art + Environment
CSPA Connect
Deep Craft
Ear to the Earth
Earth Artists NetworkSEEDS
The Art of Engagement


Gail said...

You have opened my mind to a new dimension of the suffering of our Sisters. That of artist unable to express herself openly.

Valerianna said...

Great stuff - here are links to what might be the same festival as one mentioned above - some astounding work here.... I want to participate someday, just GREAT!

Valerianna said...

Hey! That wasn't the link I put on my comment... weird! The top one is, but the bottom one isn't.... so, here is the RIGHT one:

Lauren said...

Valerianna, thanks so much for link - great stuff they're doing indeed.
I wish I knew of an environmental arts fesitival with as much enthusiasm here in this country.....

well, there is Earthdance in California, now that I think of it. Up by Laytonville usually.

Gail, yes, it's worth remembering that in some parts of the world, today and not just in some feudal past, a woman can risk her life for speaking out. About anything.

Valerianna said...

Once my studio of Mythic & Environmental Arts is built, I hope to do more of that work here... I already do some, but, really not the same scope. And I don't know of Earthdance, CA, only Earthdance in Plainfield, MASS!

T said...

These images are stunning. And it always is wrenching to be reminded of how women in some countries are treated as non-humans.