Afghan Fine Arts and Crafts
Published on 1 October 2002
Afghanistan’s figurative artists and sculptors are getting back to work. At the Academy of Fine Arts in Kabul a wooden figure of a woman, unthinkable under the Taliban, was being carved this summer.
While exhibits at the newly-opened Gallery of Fine Arts and Traditional Afghan Crafts included figurative works of over 20 known Afghan artists, plus many new ones. Under the Taliban’s strict interpretation ofF Islam all figurative art and sculpture was banned. Even today some conservatives still oppose it. “The long war, and especially the last five years, was especially difficult for Afghan artists,” says the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), which after three years in exile in Pakistan recently opened a gallery in Kabul.
Although fine ceramic art no longer flourishes in Herat, UNESCO-supported craftsmen still produce glazed brick and slab for restoration of the city’s ancient Muslim monuments. The preparation of glazed brick is simple: the baked brick is dipped into, or painted with, coloured glazes mixed from seven ingredients, including pigments. It is then fired for one day or more – depending on the colour – at 1000 degrees centigrade, in a process which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries
The Mesopotamians were the first people to use glazed brick as a contruction material. They used it to make mud walls water resistant rather than as decoration. But glaze allowed the introduction of colour, and these colourful surfaces, decorated with beautiful geometric and floral forms, arabesque panels and elegant bands of calligraphy, eventually became an indispensable element of Islamic architecture, absorbing the creative genius that, in the Christian West, went into frescoes and sculpture.
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