Artists Preserve a Culture Under Siege

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By Robin Pierson, Special to the Independent

Example of artwork included in next week’s show at the Woman’s Club.
Example of artwork included in next week’s show at the Woman’s Club.

Under the Taliban, Afghan artists were forced to stifle their creativity since even possessing works of art depicting people or animals was considered idolatry and a punishable crime. Now the talents of a group of budding artists, led by three young women, have been unleashed and the results will be on display at the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club on Thursday, April 2.

“Colorful Wings” is an exhibit of paintings created by a new generation of Afghans who have openly chosen peace over war and who want the world to hear their commitment to nonviolence by viewing their art.

“Our art is our power and our power makes us move forward and fight not only for ourselves, but for those who need us,” said Venus Vesal, one of the featured painters. “We want to introduce the world to the beautiful but forgotten aspects of Afghan culture.”

The three women heading the project met as art students at the University of Herat in western Afghanistan, known as “The City of Art and Culture.” With the help of the Afghan Development and Inspiration Bureau, a nongovernmental organization working with the next generation of Afghans to establish businesses to improve Afghanistan’s economy, the women opened a gallery in Herat. Proceeds from their opening in 2013 went to benefit street children.

All paintings at the Woman’s Club event will be for sale. The artists have agreed to donate proceeds to International Orphan Care (IOC). The nonprofit organization, founded in 1993 and based in Laguna Hills, provides education, healthcare and nutrition to Afghan orphans and children from impoverished families. IOC currently operates a school in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, offering both academic and vocational classes to over 150 disadvantaged girls and boys. In addition to English, math and computer courses, upon graduation each student leaves proficient in a potentially income generating skill and receives a skill specific tool kit for the tailoring, bicycle repair, carpentry and electronics classes.

Along with the exhibit by youthful Afghan artists, Ashraf Anzurgar, an art professor at Kabul University, has been invited to speak at the event. Through his paintings, Anzurgar, one of Afghanistan’s most prominent fine artists, depicts his homeland’s rich history and culture that is often overshadowed by images of terrorists, suppression and violence.

“Colorful Wings” will coincide with Laguna’s First Thursdays Art Walk and will be open to the public free of charge from 5-9 p.m. Afghan food and tea will be available. The Woman’s Club is located at 286 St. Ann’s Drive, Laguna Beach.

Local Robin Pierson writes about topics that pique her interest.

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