What Happens When American Artists Meet Afghan Rug Weavers

A new collaborative exhibit raises questions about how we navigate the complex relationship between arts and crafts.

Carpet production center outside of Kabul

Last weekend, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles debuted a new exhibition called The Afghan Carpet Project, a special show that represents the collaborative efforts of Afghan carpet weavers and six L.A. artists—Lisa Anne Auerbach, Liz Craft, Meg Cranston, Francesca Gabbiani, Jennifer Guidi, and Toba Khedoori. Last year, these artists took a trip to Kabul and Bamiyan, organized by the non-profit organization AfghanMade, where they observed the “craft and production process” of the carpet weavers, and then drew up designs for their own carpets. The Hammer Museum show includes the six carpets that resulted from this trip, designed by the L.A. artists and weaved by the Afghan artisans, as well as photographs of the trip, taken by Auerbach.

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Tough Afghan Girls Fight Harsh Gender Oppression With Their Bikes

Girls aren’t supposed to ride alone in Afghanistan, so a group of them formed a tough (biking) gang.

“So, can you tell me what you’re doing here?”“This bike riding club is to encourage girls to ride here in Kabul. There...

Posted by Humans of Kabul on Saturday, July 19, 2014\n

While experts may disagree, revolutions tend to be fought with weapons, not bikes. But inside Kabul, Afghanistan, an outrageously brave group of Afghan teenage girls are fighting to argue otherwise. Not too long ago, Fatima Haidari and a group of Afghan girls became frustrated that, as women, they weren’t supposed to be out on the streets alone. So they did what most people in this situation would not do: they hopped out of their houses, onto their bikes, and into the streets.

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Artists Rebuild Destroyed Buddha Statues With Ghostly 3D Projection

Following their destruction by the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan’s famed Buddhas of Bamiyan are reborn in luminous light.

image via youtube screen capture

For centuries, the towering Buddha statues looking out over Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley were renowned the world over for their size and beauty. Built in the 6th century, the two main figures were the largest statues of a standing Buddha on Earth, looming at 53 and 35 meters, respectively. Carved into a sheer cliff face, the Bamiyan Buddhas were an awe inspiring combination of devotional art and ingenious craftsmanship. And in 2001, they were completely destroyed.

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A Trip to Cambodia Shows How Skateboarding Bridges Cultural Barriers

Professional skater Javier Mendizabal and the Quiksilver by Vuerich B project team traveled to Phnom Penh to meet the Skateistan team.

In early December, professional skater Javier Mendizabal and the Quiksilver by Vuerich B project team traveled to Phnom Penh to meet the Skateistan team and their students. This trip marked the beginning of an exciting new collaboration to release a range of sunglasses made out of recycled skateboard decks to help support Skateistan, a nonprofit that uses skateboarding as a tool for engaging and empowering youth.

As an ambassador of the Quiksilver Foundation, Javier participated in all of Skateistan Cambodia’s day-to-day activities with the students: hosting workshops on the mechanics of a skateboard, providing trick tips to the staff and students, and giving skate demos. Through their shared passion for skateboarding, Javier was able to inspire and motivate the students of Skateistan to push their own skating to new levels.

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From 13-Year Old Skater to 14-Year Old Bride

Through the project "Through My Eyes" we learn about Faranaz, an Afghani skater, and her home life outside of Skateistan.

Since Faranaz began attending classes at the Skateistan skatepark, she progressed to the point where she was welcomed onto the teaching staff as a girls’ instructor in the fall of 2010. She also excelled in advanced art classes. During one semester, the girls painted old skateboard decks, and Faranaz oversaw the completion of a giant wooden butterfly sculpture made out of broken boards. Early on, during her time with Skateistan, Faranaz developed problems with her vision. The team took her to an optometrist, who prescribed glasses and treatment to prevent the on-set of blindness. She had been suffering from an eye infection that afflicts many children in Afghanistan whose families live in over crowded and unhygienic conditions.

In the summer of 2010, Faranaz was chosen to take part in a Skateistan photojournalism project called "Through My Eyes." This gave her a voice, which she used to talk about her past and present home life outside of Skateistan. "Through My Eyes" gives a glimpse into her life as a 13-year-old girl living in Kabul. It is at once a very personal story, and one that contains shadows of the lives of millions of other young women living in Afghanistan. In the summer of 2011, one year after the film project was completed, Faranaz left Kabul permanently, when her family made the move north to a village near Mazar-e-Sharif at the insistence of her older brother. By January, 2012 she was engaged.


Faranaz’s story is shared at greater length in the Skateistan book Skateistan – The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan. This 320-page color book features stunning, previously unpublished photographs accompanied by essays, interviews and personal stories from Skateistan's founder Oliver Percovich and the young Afghans that have gone from being students to teachers in the skatepark and classrooms. Full of hope, beauty, gritty honesty—and skateboards!—this is a story about Afghanistan—and Faranaz—that you won’t find anywhere else.

Add purchasing your own copy of Skateistan – The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan to your To-Do list here. 100 percent of profits go to Skateistan's programming for youth in Afghanistan and Cambodia.

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Wind-Powered Land Mine Destroyer Now on Kickstarter

Massoud Hassani's new "Mine Kafon" is a wind-powered device that detonates land mines.

Afghanistan is filled with land mines: every month, hidden mines kill dozens of Afghans. When product designer Massoud Hassani began to think about solutions to the problem, he remembered a game he'd played when he was growing up in Kabul. He and his brothers built small paper toys, shaped like tumbleweed, that they took outside and raced in the strong desert wind. Hassani's Mine Kafon, designed to detonate land mines, is a much larger version of those toys, made from biodegradable plastic and bamboo.

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