I was born in Herat in the Muslim year 1355. All of my schooling was here. When Taliban came in power the girls weren’t allowed to study. So I left school. My parents got a private tutor to teach me in my home. When I finished high school I took the exam to see what department of the university she’d qualify for. I was accepted into law, but I chose art instead. Now all women are allowed to enter whichever college of the university they qualify for. I was married 2 years ago and now I have a son.
When did you begin to be interested in art?
I became interested in drawing when I was 8 in primary school. I made some little drawings in my notebooks and people said that they were good.
Do they teach art in schools below the university level?
No, there are no teachers to teach art. The university was the only formal art education I’ve had. I’m a student now and it’s my last year.
How will you use your art when you graduate?
I’m interested in teaching, but here if students want to teachers, they have to decide that at the beginning, so it’s too late for me now. I will paint here at home.
How did your art help you when you were going through difficult times?
In those [Taliban] times we could do nothing. We could not go out. We couldn’t visit our friends. My only choice was to work inside the home and leave everything else to the Mighty Allah. When I felt bad and when I was suffering, I painted. It helped me forget my condition. Do you see this [7 foot tall] painting of the ancient pillar? I painted it from a picture I had. By painting it, I was able to bring something from outside into my house.
What do you think about art and how important art is in society?
Here in Afghanistan, unfortunately, people do not pay attention to art. Because of lack of education they never think of art. But for me, art helps me a lot.
This painting is one of my first ones. I did it in my first class. I want to tell the people of the world of the people’s misery. You see these doors are closed. This door is more beautiful than that one. This one is for the rich people, that for the poor ones. But it doesn’t matter to that child in the foreground who has a blanket around him and he’s sitting under a tree and there is snow. You see these animals, the crow and the wolf? The animals have feelings for the boy, but the people in houses don’t. There is no humanitarianism here.
Profile and pictures provided to us by and copyrighted to Peggy Kelsey, of Kelsey Photography taken from her book “Gathering Strength: Conversations with Afghan Women”