Rahela’s ‘Buzkashi’


By Eisha Sarkar

rahel-buzkashiShortly after I started interacting with my student Muhammad Qasem Jami last October, I was flooded by friend requests from Herat on Facebook. As precaution, I would verify the connections the person had with Jami before accepting him/her as friend. That’s how I met Asef Majidi, who was working at Sakena Yacoobi’s NGO, Afghan Institute of Learning. Whereas Jami and my conversations revolved around culture, history, poetry, peace and literature, Asef and I discussed fashion, business and economics.

When I learned Jami’s sister, Fariha, is a graphic designer, I shared with him some of my artwork. We discussed our love for horses and I made a painting of Buzkashi, the Afghan national sport where rival groups of riders race each other to grab the carcass of a goat and then charge with the carcass to the goalpost. I posted the painting on Facebook and people loved it. “Nice painting,” Asef wrote. “Thanks, Asef,” I replied. “Well, there is someone in my family who paints as well. You should see her paintings,” he suggested and sent me a link to Rahel Majidi’s page. I browsed through her watercolours: Women’s portraits, birds, European countrysides, townscapes and Buzkashi. I sent her a friend request.

It would take another seven months before Rahela would accept me as her friend. Jami and I would have finished two courses at Pax Populi Academy and Asef would have moved to California to pursue his studies in business. I persuaded Asef to introduce me to Rahela. “What? I thought you guys were friends already. I’ll write to her,” he said.

That’s how I met Rahela, a 27-year-old, who was born in Herat and spent a decade in Iran till the fall of the Taliban regime when her family moved back to Afghanistan in 2002. She moved to Maryland, USA, last year. “I loved painting since I was a little kid .The beauty of nature motivates me and gives me the feeling to express myself. I enjoy creating something from nothing. It is satisfying and makes me feel good,” she wrote to me. While she did oil painting a few years ago she now prefers to use watercolors. Why did she paint ‘Buzkashi’? “I love my country and my culture. Buzkashi is a national sport in Afghanistan and it has been for many years. By painting it I want to represent a part of my culture to the world.”


When I told Rahela that I would like to write about her and feature her painting on the Pax Populi blog, she requested, “I am working on another one on Buzkashi. Will you wait for it to be completed? Just a couple of days.” “Sure,” I said. A day later, she shared her new painting with me. I loved it.

This is a story of how connections grow through Pax Populi. While you do teach one student at a time, that person is a gateway to a whole new set of people and their stories.

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Pax Populi at PUAN Youth Activism Conference, Islamabad

12961526_1164481903591898_5499146405077537603_n By Muhammad Qasem Jami
In April 2016, the US Mission in Pakistan and the Pakistan-US Alumni Network (PUAN) organized an Youth Activism Conference which brought together about 200 professionals and youth from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan. The aim was to provide a platform to this group of young leaders between ages 18-29 years and inspire them to make a bigger difference in their communities, create new regional networks for youth activists, and train in valuable digital skills needed to expand their ideas and projects.
As a representative of Afghanistan, I had the privilege of speaking about Pax Populi Academy at this conference. The participants were amazed when I told them about our one-to-one tutoring program and that, as Pax Populi coordinator in Herat, I connect students in Afghanistan with their English tutors in the US and India. I talked about how this kind of interaction fosters mutual understanding among people of different nations and can make the world a more peaceful place to live in.
I participated in the Youth Activism conferences which focused on raising awareness of social, cultural, civil, political rights, and opening opportunities for the participants to connect with like-minded people from across South Asia. Education, human rights, climate change, extremism, inter-faith harmony, political engagement, social media, social entrepreneurship, leadership development, communication and campaign design, fundraising for social Change, digital storytelling and visual diplomacy were the key issues that were discussed and debated upon at the Islamabad conference. 12973197_1164482356925186_2022612453271425382_o
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