Sunday, February 24, 2008

Afghanistan Dialogue: Imagine art after

Imagine art after was a project uniting artists who originate from the same country but who are now geographically and politically separated. The project brought together seven artists who left home and now live in London, and seven who remained in the country of their birth: the artist who left, and the artist who stayed. The aim of the project is to open lines of communication where they would otherwise not exist, enabling artists to exchange ideas and work, and also to discuss their experiences in a online forum.

The artists taking part come from countries whose people, according to the Home Office, make an unusually high number of applications for asylum in the UK, among them Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Serbia and Nigeria. As well as their work being exhibited online, each artist will take part in a dialogue with their partner for six weeks.

By communicating about their experience in two very different societies, it's hoped that the artists' conversations with each other will lend insight into how life and art interrelate, and how identity is shaped by notions of belonging.

There was an exhibition of their work in Tate until first week of January. Unfortunately I missed to see it.

I was listening to a report on BBC where the Afghan project was described as exposition of two men. Some dialogues were great success but the Afghanistan didn’t pick up, the expositions were about two men’s belief, basically they were monologues. I am providing some details of the men below, frankly I could clearly see how these two men could be obsessed with their own views, they see themselves as very important person and don’t downplay their pair’s opinion as unrelated and something out of the context.

Some of the dialogues went very well if you look at the Serbian dialogue, they have done so much. Every night they have written quite a bit to each other. I am really disappointed to see that Rahraw only made one posting to Shapur, in badly broken English. They are clearly missing the point of art. It’s about expression and communication, which is best possible in a language you are fluent in. why aren’t they communicating in Farsi or Pashtu?

From Afghanistan was Rahraw Amarzad livening in Kabul was paired with Shapur Amini living in London.

Shapur was born on October 11, 1962 in Kabul. After graduating from Ghazi high school, he was offered a scholarship to study Photography, Television and Cinema in Tehran, Iran. Only a few months after my arrival in Iran, the communist coup took place in Afghanistan.

With the coming of many Afghans to the United Kingdom and the lack of Afghan organisations to assist them, in October 1991 he formed a community group called Afghan Academy, an educational, cultural and social organisation.

Rahraw Amarzad was born in 1964 in Kabul, where he continued to live and work as an artist, curator and lecturer.

He is the Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art Afghanistan, Lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts Kabul University and Editor in Chief of Gahnama-e-Hunar Art Magazine.

I think the reason the Afghans were held back is because the dialogue was public, therefore they have to hide some things and communicate in a language understandable for audience.

I like the dialogue between the Iraqis, it’s very tender and you can see how their point of view has changed. This is again not the case with Afghans. perhaps its between a woman and a man. i don't think its a good idea to put two muslim men together, espicially Afghan. its hard for them to open up.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

بحث کلمات "د" دار به شورای ملی رسید

بحث کلمات "د" دار به شورای ملی رسید

عبدالکریم خرم از سوی کمیسیون امور دینی و فرهنگی ولسی جرگه استجواب به گردید. خرم را کمیسیون متهم به خدشه دار کردن وحدت ملی نمود. حاجی محمد محقق رییس کمیسیون فرهنگی و دینی ولسی جرگه گفت که در شرایط فعلی بی کاری ، نا امنی، گرسنگی، و سرما که جان صدها نفر را می گیرد، دامن زدن به چنین مسایل به صلاح کشور نبوده واولویت ها باید در نظر گرفته شود.

زمان زیاد نیاز است تا مجلس طرز برخورد خود را با مقامات دولتی سلیس کند. پارلمان امروز یک گروه متحاجم و پرخاشگر میباشد که فکر میکند هر کاری را میتوانند زیرا نماینده ملت اند.

در مورد قضیه خرم پارلمان و شخص محقق باید بداند که هر شخص نقش مشخص خود را دارد، مسوؤلیت وزیر فرهنگ سرما و گرسنگی نیست. همین عدم فهم مقامات دولتی از نقش شان بوده که وظایف همه پیچیده شده است.

تبدیل لوحه وزارت اطلاعات وفرهنگ از زبان دری به پشتو و انگلیسی، تبدیل نام نگارستان ملی به گالری ملی، یکجا نمودن خبرهای دری و پشتو تلویزیون ملی، تبدیل لوحه محلات به یک زبان، چگونگی اقدامات در باره اصلاح برنامه های رسانه های همگانی و مجازات خبرنگاران تلویزیون ملی در بلخ مواردی بود که باعث استجواب وزیر اطلاعات وفرهنگ شده بود.

پارلمان هم باید بداند که این تنها تصمیم وزیر نبوده است بلکه زبان و طرز استفاده از آن یک بحث ملی است. طرز استفاده از زبان بیانگر موقف سیاسی اجتماعی اشخاص میباشد. ثبوت نکته فوق برخورد های لفظی میان نماینده گان در جریان استجواب وزیراطلاعات وفرهنگ میباشد.

مسئله زبان فکر شده است کرزی و باند وی بندی را در قانون اساسی گنجانیده اند. خرم هم بر بند اخیر قانون اساسی تاکید کرده می گویند که در آنجا گفته شده تا مصطلحات ملی باید حفظ شود، و وی منحیث مامور حکومت به کسی اجازه نمی دهد که ولایت را استان و یا سوبه بگوید. که نکته خوب است اما در عین زمان خرم نگارستان را به گالری تبدیل میکند. که این خود حذف مصطلحات ملی است. ماموری که دانسته خلاف قانون اساسی عمل میکند باید مجازات شود.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

journalist fine is linked to the culturolanguage debate

Three Afghan journalists working for government-owned media have been fined for using words not approved by cultural policy. A reporter and two of his superiors were fined for using three words from Persian, as used in Iran, instead of their local equivalent derived from Pashtu -- the language of the Afghan majority. Afghanistan's official languages are Dari-Farsi and Pashtu, both members of indo-persian languages, a subclass of indo-european languages. Pashtu has dominated Dari in the last two centuries in Afghanistan. The Pashtun rulers and Kings pursued a cultural policy of Pashtuization, changing names of location, people and objects into Pashto from Dari.

The reporter fined used three words for "university", "students" and "certificate", in a report from Persian spoken in Iran. Many Dari scholars in Afghanistan would argue that reference should be made to language history and indeed the original Persian words are not used in Afghanistan because of Pashtu influence. The governments in the past only introduced a Pashtu word for the above three and promoted its use in Dari too. The influence of Pashtu on Dari is tremendous and vice versa. there are many Dari words in Afghan Pashtu while they have an English or Hindi equivalent in Pakistani Pashtu. The two languages of Afghanistan are very close to each other and the government policy has been to identify both particular to Afghanistan and set some peculiarities to separate them from the same languages spoken in the region. The origin of Dari debate has heated up lately, new media outlets have mushroomed across the country and each pursue different language policy over which the government has no control. Popular stations like Tolo uses the Dari as it is spoken in Iran and it seem to enjoy a lot of popularity. Government officials have not spoken against this because they don’t have a policy guidelines. However, unofficially they have condemned the new approach Dari. In an unofficial gathering Jabar Sabit, Afghan General Attorney, was arguing that the Dari language in Afghanistan is not only similar in words with the one spoken in Iran but there are structural differences. This is clearly a prove of General Attorney’s ignorance but it does show that senior officials in Karzai government pursue the old policy and Karzai seem to appoint more of them and tacitly support the implicit policy.

Pashtu words in Dari have been challenged after the collapse of Taliban. The minorities who speak Dari feel free than ever before and they want to use their own language –purely. The question is whether it’s a good thing or not. I am going to try to answer.

My primary response would be it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how we speak and what words we use. What matters is whether it adheres with the national creative policy. We don’t know that because there is no national creative policy. The creative and cultural policy in Afghanistan is managed by people like Khuram who are fanatic and racist. Even if the government will come up with a cultural policy it will never be trusted by the public, if khuram-minded people are in the government. After fining the journalist in another move Khuram introduced the English word ‘Gallery’ to replace the Dari word equivalent of it. the Dari equivalent was used for decades. Khurams move has been seen by many Dari scholars as an anti-Dari policy. In many countries around the world governments try to coup with the English influence by introduce local equivalent. The gesture of Khuram is very rare. There was no explanation given in support of the change. In a country without a lid we have to think for ourselves, everybody is on their own. The right policy is promoting knowledge creation and the generation of wealth. If Dari language in Afghanistan is changing in a way that it separates from Pashtu and connects with regional languages further; in a way that it contributes to national knowledge and wealth then it’s a good thing. I am aware of the price we are going to pay; its going to intensify ethnic tension because the groups will become further separated. its very dangerous to look at this issue from one dimension. i was watching a video of Wasif Bakhtari on the internet and raved on about the history of Farsi language and how ignorant the current government is and have been. this is not helping.

BBC, and all international media targeting Afghanistan, have Pashtu services targeting Pashtu speakers in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. The Dari services target audiences/readers in central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran. One could argue that it’s an old colonial approach to countries and regions and there is no merit of knowledge creation in such programming. But it has proved to be an economically better approach for media coverage.

Tolo and many others also use words in Dari which is similar to Iranian Farsi. I don’t believe owners of tolo have any cultural policy and care about afghan culture they are only after the money and they have realised that audiences like Dari with new words in it. does this tell us there is economic gain? If there was no economic gain then why would tolo pursue a controversial language approach?

I know many afghans who make a living from their language knowledge. there are many jobs for Persian speakers in UK as translators, I know a few and they deal with Iranian more than with afghans.

The hard part of the argument is whether it creates knowledge. I could start the argument by connecting it to naïve arguments such as the human rights. It’s the right of every individual to speak in their first language and acquire education and information in their first language. Dari is a very rich language and the literature is very strong, the new language is reusing the old terms from classical language it could be argued that the use of old terms enriches people life and brings more meaning. I have managed several radio and TV stations in the last few years. I have observed that internet is the primary source for general information for journalists. The information gathered from the internet comes from websites such as Wikipedia in Persian. the reason Persian Wikipedia is rich and has tens of thousands of articles is because of the contribution of individuals from Iran and other Persian speaking countries. Another example is SPIP, it is an open-source, free publication system on the Internet used by many media outlets to build websites. SPIP allows contributive writing. The reason it’s used widely is because its available in Persian. if Persian was only spoken in Afghanistan there was not a big enough market to translate SPIP. I could make many arguments why the new Dari could contribute to knowledge generation.

In the letter sent to reporters by ministry of information and culture, which I have obtained a copy, no explanation was given on why their action was considered against cultural policy. However it was written that their action is unislamic. This is again another sign to show us how similar minded the government is to Taliban. Iranian Farsi is also perceived by Taliban unislamic. It’s the language of Shias, who are worst than infidels. For Taliban the only Islamic language is Pashtu and Arabic. They hate dari more than English.

In Afghanistan we can never explain anything. Any explaination ends up with more questions. I have more questions now than when I started to write this. Why is there no cultural policy? Why decisions are taken in regard to cultural policy but they are not explained? Why is the government not, at least in paper, having a knowledge policy? Why is the international community spending billions to make Afghanistan economically viable and educationally rich not understanding this? Why can’t international community produce recommendations for knowledge policy?

The black bull is attacking “university, certificate, student, knowledge, gallery” the words are similarly used in Iran and not approved by ministry of information and culture.

The journalist was fined for using these words. Minister Khuram is often referred to as ‘Bull’ because of his obesity . black symbolises anti enlightenment.

cartoon by a.khodadad

Sunday, February 10, 2008

the Kite runner was banned: it tell us a lot about afghan government

Ministry of information and culture has banned the import and exhibition of The Kite Runner on the fear of social consequences. The film is based on the novel by Khalid Husseini about the troubled friendship of two Afghan boys. The kite runner offers an image of Afghanistan before the wars and has a personal touch of the friendship between Amir, the son of a wealthy Pashtun, and Hassan, the Hazara son of Amir’s father’s servant. although, the kite runner is not much different than most other stories about Afghanistan. It’s about hardship and difficulties, it builds on the foundation that any afghan story could only be told by pain and disaster. But kite runner is different than most other popular stories about Afghanistan, it has a personal touch and it tells the story of fun and joy.

Apparently, ministry is concerned about a couple of controversial scenes in the film: first, Hassan is raped in an alley by a bunch of Pashtun bullies. Second, Hassan’s son, Sohrab, is later forced to perform an erotic dance by a Talib. Let’s break this down and try to analyse, I have heard from friends who remember the seventies that a rape case surfaced into the local papers around the same time that the story of the film is taking place. The rape became popular among Kabulis in late 1970s, after the government failed to respond. The raped boy decided to ravage and killed all the three attackers. Apparently the story had no ethnic profile. If the story is proven true then Khalid, the author, has not taken into consideration the events which were taking place around the same time as his story, or he has deliberately distorted the truth to make his story more exciting. I think both are fine. He never claims it’s the truth. It’s a fiction and artistic imagination of a writer. I am wondering, why is it so hard for minister of information and culture to understand that imagination and fiction is the basis of artistic recreation.

The other point I would like to make is about the erotic dance and the rape scene. Erotic dance is not something new for Afghanistan. It’s a part of afghan culture. If the minister of information and culture doesn’t know that then he shouldn’t be the minister of culture. Dear minister, here is a little cultural tutorial for you, walk out of your ministry and go to the DVD shop just across the street and ask for a ‘Raqsi Qataghani’. You’ll get a long range of choice. Which won’t be much different than what is portrait in the film, if not more erotic. The other controversial scene is the rape, the ministry could have provided copies with omitted rape scene; if concerned about family screening. Why is the ministry so scared of sex and sexual issues? You can’t avoid it, its part of human nature. Every Music and film shop in Afghanistan has a collection of pornographic movies. It’s a business and it won’t be stopped by ignoring the issue. The minister should become more cultural and try to address the issue of sex and pornography. If there is a need for something in a society, it’s better to regulate it instead of ignoring it. there is always the Taliban way of dealing with it, public execution or some other brutal punishment to convicts which possess or seek pornography. Minister Khuram and the Karzai government have the same attitude as Taliban but they can’t use the same method because their foreign backers won’t approve that.

Last but not least is the storyline, the ministry didn’t like it because it talks about friendship in the frame of ethnicity. Pashtoon rich and Hazara poor. This has been the truth and everybody know it. this is not the whole truth and all hazaras were not servants for pashtuns but some were. The story makes a generalisation. This is called the freedom to express your view. People see things differently and all should be told. minister Khuram your job is not to make sure everybody see the same thing. Its not going to happen. Taliban tried, I truly think their method was much effective. You won’t achieve it with your inefficient methods.

Kite runner offered many westerners a more settled way to look into Afghanistan. Its different than what they hear from media on daily basis. A lot of people I know in the UK showed more interest to Afghanistan and keen to learn more, keen to learn about personal stories of diasporas. But people like Khuram and Karzai and his Mullah allies are there to make sure that Afghanistan only reflect a fanatic face. If films and books like kite runner are banned, creative thinking is banned.

my latest comment on afghan radio and journalistm

my latest interview with BBC about audience participation in local afghan radio station and journalist security in the light of Perviz case.

BBC podcast_click here

Saturday, February 09, 2008

بازداشت یک شهروند بریتانوی به اتهام فریبکاری

یک شهروند بریتانوی،رئیس شرکت تبلیغاتی" گروپ "،امروز به اتهام فریبکاری وعدم  پرداخت پول های مردم، بازداشت گردید .

ظاهرأ، رئیس شرکت تبلیغاتی گروپ که در ساحه وزیراکبرخان دست به فریب  کاری     می زد. کارمندان شرکت گروپ شاکی شده و ادعا کرده اند که انتونی رئیس شرکت صدو یازده هزاردالرامریکایی پول  معاشات آنان نپرداخته است.

انتونی رئیس شرکت گروپ   تعدادی از افغان ها را در بخش های مختلف استخدام نموده بود وطی سه ماه معاشات آنهارا   نیز نپرداخته بود ومی خواست از کشور  فرارنماید که به اثر شکایت کارمندان آن شرکت ،نامبرده     از شاهراه    کابل جلال آباد  دستگیر    گردید.

  انتونی     شرکت تبلیغاتی   "گروپ "را در یک خانه کرایی واقع وزیر اکبرخان بازنموده بود،که کرایه خانه ، پول   تیل فروشان وپرده دوزان شهر کابل را   نیز نپرداخته   بود.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Afghan Film Festival in Edinburgh

There is going to be an afghan film festival in Edinburgh toward the end of February, the aim is to show a new face of Afghanistan. One which has not been familiar to UK audience, the idea is to bring creativity and fun from Afghanistan. But I don’t see anything creative when I look at the festival program. It’s the same old boring stuff. Taliban, Osama, Kandahar, misery and various stories of a haunted nation. Why should osama or Kandahar always represent Afghanistan. Even if we try to show another face. It’s because the festival organisers didn’t know how to look behind barmak and Rahimi to find new faces of Afghanistan. Let me explain why.

I didn’t dare to call film an industry in Afghanistan, because Afghan film is not an industry, the word industry implicates a distinguished process of production, distribution and screening. It doesn’t exist in Afghanistan, for the obvious reason of economy to support it. but a point to ponder up on is, do we need an established market which has the purchase power and interested in afghan film or a successful industry can create a market. I believe if good business skills are combined with artistic expression then film and video products could be sold. The problem is that we don’t have film makers who could think about the audience, and to be able to think about the ways to make afghans interested in their films. That is a starting point, once audience is interested then you can sell to them.

The film makers are interested in themselves. They are interested about what they think and then they market it internationally. Film in Afghanistan is a notion of arty farty recreation which introduces Afghanistan to clandestine audience, seemingly abroad. Osama won a golden globe award while its merely known to few people in Afghanistan. Whether osama was good enough to win the award than its competitors is a different issue which I will write about in the next post.

I don’t call film an art in Afghanistan because it’s not an art. Art is mass and art is creative. Film industry in Afghanistan is in the hands of few. There is a definite monopoly which I will come back to later.

A few people like seddiq barmak and attiq Rahimi and some others are renowned as film makers. They are happy to be famous and that is the end. There is no notion of bringing up  and supporting a generation of film makers in the hope to invest in creativity. The renown filmmakers think they are the ultimate symbol of creativity. I see this as a bad practice but I wish it was only limited to their lack of vision and misunderstanding of the meaning of Art. They create an entry barrier for the young film makers, by default and merely because they exist. There are dozens of young and energetic film makers around Afghanistan which are struggling with their ideas. Some I know has even produced films. But the reason their films are not getting publicity is because of monopolists like attiq Rahimi and seddiq barmak. I believe that young film makers are equally creative as barmak or Rahimi, if not more. But they will never get the attention. Among them their might be people to change this creative talent into a marketable art which could support them invest in film making and create more films. the situation resembles a bit like the film makers in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Are they talented? Yes of course they are. But do they make any money. NO. Hollywood does, Hollywood producers make the money because they have a good distribution system. But they are not more creative than Edinburgh and Glasgow filmmakers. I give this example because of the festival in Edinburgh.

I think a great fun project would be to network the young film makers and try to market their products. Encourage creativity and enable them to get access to festivals such as Edinburgh.

I don’t think I have been real constructive. I think we should go behind the blame game and look into ways of turning film into a vibrant sector. I know many people who does that but work need to be done at different levels. Creative enough is not good, the film needs to reach out and go to different markets.