AFGHANISTAN: NO CUL­TURAL DESERT

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Exhibition - Tanya MacNaughton

WHEN pas­sen­gers in Mo­ham­mad Yous­sof Qawwam’s taxi find out he was born in Afghanistan, the majority of the time they as­sume he was raised in the desert.

“I tell them I don’t come from the desert but they don’t be­lieve me,” Qawwam, who now lives in For­rest- field, said.

The aca­demic was work­ing for the gov­ern­ment in the city of Herat when the Tal­iban seized con­trol in 1994 and he fled overnight to Iran be­fore mov­ing to Kabul with his wife and young son 10 months later.

A rel­a­tive in Aus­tralia started a spon­sor­ship process and and his fam­ily moved to Aus­tralia in 1998.

Since March this year, Qawwam has been work­ing in his role as Afghan Aus­tralian Cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent to help source items from the lo­cal Afghan com­mu­nity to in­clude in Western Aus­tralian Mu­seum’s free ex­hi­bi­tion, Lo­cal Trea­sures.

It is run­ning con­cur­rently with tour­ing tick­eted ex­hi­bi­tion Afghanistan: Hid­den Trea­sures from the Na­tional Mu­seum Kabul and fea­tures a rich col­lec­tion of an­cient ob­jects that were se­cretly hid­den away for years by Kabul mu­seum staff to pre­vent them from be­ing ca­su­al­ties of war.

Among the an­cient ob­jects is an ivory leogryph bracket from the first cen­tury CE fea­tur­ing a lion’s body for brav­ery, ea­gles’ wings for in­spi­ra­tion and par­rot beak to speak the truth.

WA Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Moya Smith said they wanted both exhibitions to make peo­ple re­think what they un­der­stood about Afghanistan, past and present.

“There is that per­cep­tion that it’s just war be­cause the stock im­age al­ways played is a sol­dier be­hind a mud brick wall with the desert in the back­ground,” Smith said.

“You don’t get that sense of those as­tound­ing moun­tains and river val­leys... You don’t get that sense of real mod­ern peo­ple.

“I think when peo­ple are so happy to lend some­thing of them­selves, that’s just very pow­er­ful.”

The exhibitions are show­ing un­til Novem­ber 16.

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson

Sands of time: Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Dr Moya Smith with a 1949 il­lus­trated Afghani en­cy­clo­pe­dia and cul­tural as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Mo­ham­mad Yous­sof Qawwam with a hand-blown glass jar

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