Artwork inspired in Afghanistan on display in Brattleboro

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 5:52 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - It has been one year since the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban took over. For many Afghans, it’s a day marked by trauma, anger and fear.

The Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan just weeks before the United States’ planned military withdrawal triggered such intense panic that thousands of Afghans stormed the Kabul airport in a desperate attempt to flee their country.

For the Taliban, it’s a day of joy. Hundreds of people gathered just yards from where the U.S. embassy once stood chanting god is great.

About 100 Afghan refugees now call Brattleboro home. That includes members of the Art Lords, a group of artists whose work used to appear all over Afghanistan. But not anymore. However, not all is lost.

One of the first things the Taliban did when they took over the country was to get rid of all the public art. Now, some of that art is being replicated in Vermont.

“They were all painted over or we can say whitewashed,” said Abdullah, a member of the Art Lords.

We are not using Abdullah’s last name for his personal safety. But in some ways, he is already well-known. Murals he helped created used to be painted on war-torn walls all over Afghanistan.

The art back home has been destroyed but it’s living on in Brattleboro.

“It will be a reminder for all of the people or the U.S. government that our people are still not safe. They are barely surviving,” Abdullah said.

At various locations around town, next to pictures of the original murals, are new temporary tape murals created in collaboration with tape arts from Rhode Island.

“The community has really pulled together to welcome these folks,” said Kirsten Martsi of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center helped coordinated the project. Officials there hope the art inspires more collaboration.

“Allow them space to bring a piece of their culture and their history and their work to their new home,” Martsi said.

Zuhra is also a member of the Art Lords. Abdullah helped me understand what art means to her.

“Whatever is happening in the society, we can express our ideas, our thoughts through art for social justice,” Zuhra said.

Now, Vermonters are sharing in that message, despite the fact that it was originally intended for a different audience.

“Such a wonderful opportunity for Brattleboro to welcome the Afghan refugees here. And to let them celebrate and recreate their art that was destroyed by the Taliban is even more incredible,” said Emily Wagner of Brattleboro.

In all, there are 17 pieces around town. Two more permanent murals are in the works.

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