The Real Afghanistan
Title: Images of Afghanistan - Exploring Afghan Culture through Art and Literature Editors: Arley Loewen and Josette Mcmichael Publisher: Oxford University Press, (August, 2010) Pages: 350 pages, Hardback Price: U.S. $40 ISBN-10: 0195477952 ISBN-13: 97801
For centuries, the Afghans have been creating, building, writing and drawing to create an identity of who they are. Since 2001, hundreds of thousands of expatriates have traveled to Afghanistan, including foreign troops. They are keen to know more about this fascinating country and its people. Several million Afghans who now live outside Afghanistan will enjoy this book as a keepsake to remind them of their rich cultural heritage. Librarians, professors and students of art, literature and history will also want to own this concise and reliable source.
‘Images of Afghanistan’ provides an overview of the art and literature of Afghanistan. Thirty two chapters of art, music, film, proverbs, short stories, poetry, cartoons and folk tales written in a popular style offer insights into the complexities of Afghan culture and dispel the misconception that Afghanistan is only a haven for terrorists and drug dealers.
One hears of Afghanistan is usually in conjunction with ‘terror’ or ‘Taliban.’ The media speaks about the region in a mechanical, cold manner and brings out only the troubles afflicting the region rather than the individuals living there. The world continues to watch Afghanistan as a country which regularly makes the headlines but for all the wrong reasons.
Few people have more than a superficial understanding of Afghan culture and the views of its people. Many know someone who has served or is serving in Afghanistan as part of the military, an aid worker or a business consultant. The war on terrorism and globalization has kindled a desire to gain more information about Middle Eastern and Central Asian cultures, especially of Afghanistan.
The editors, Arley Loemen and Josette McMichael, are expatriates who realized the beauty of the Afghan and Persian culture over their many years spent in the country. The compilation of this work was an attempt to remind those watching Afghanistan from afar as well as those living within that there is more to the country than the war and violence. In other words, this is an effort that dispels the misconception that this war-torn country is simply a dangerous breeding ground for terrorists and opium dealers.
The book looks broadly at two aspects of Afghan/Persian culture i.e. arts and literature. In the chapters on art, the editors have discussed calligraphy, painting, handicrafts, music and cinema. Literature informs the readers of the ancient Persian tradition of poetry and story telling, recounting the Sufi masterminds and their works, as well as discussing new literature coming out of the region.
The book is divided into seven sections. The first part focuses on learning culture, especially through stories and other art forms. It also gives a detailed history of Afghanistan which provides hooks on which to hang information in the remainder of the book.
The chapters on Dari classical and modern poetry, short stories, proverbs and children’s rhymes uncover a range of perspectives of Afghan culture. Through an unprecedented look at traditional and modern poetry, short stories, proverbs and tappas (Pashto rhymes), the third section brings Pashtun culture to life.
The fourth section analyzes diverse