Impressions from Afghanistan

 

09062011-09062011-P1150199Irene Carlos and I became friendly thanks to being members of the Surface Design Association at the time (2011,) and we also had a piece in the 4th WTA Biennial here in Costa Rica, so I admired her work even though I had not met her: She is a great visual artist from Guatemala.

That year, she was invited to visit in Afghanistan and, being a place of conflict, we didn’t expect her to be able to delve into textiles, but I anxiously awaited her letters and, of course, her photos.

Three skimpy letters arrived, with warnings not to publish location. I managed to make a full article out of them, without photographs. Some photos arrived later, but I didn’t get permission to publish them, so I didn’t.

Until now! I came across her article published by the European Textile Network, and quickly contacted her. The full story is fascinating:

She arrived in Herat, where she stayed for one month until unrest intensified in that city, leaving her to travel on her own. She visited Kabul first, and then Bamyan. I’m publishing her photos of Bamyan at the end.

May 24, 2011: In her first account she talked about her arrival, lodging, and other sensitive matters we could not publish. Afghanistan is, after all, a war area. The following letter was received this morning after a few days of silence. It promised me photographs that have arrived five years later: It turns out Irene sent the photos, but I did not receive them; then I got them, but couldn’t show them. Here is Irene’s second letter to me, which I posted so long ago:

“For security reasons I can’t tell you where I’m staying, but not much is going on at my refuge. I’ve been painting morning and afternoon, except when Hassina waits for me by the door in her blue chador—then my life brightens up. We roam the streets of Herat seeing historic monuments, the Citadella, bazaars, side-streets full of dust and open gutters. Right then it would never occur to you that there’s a war going on in this country. Everyone seems more worried about their daily shopping, and you see streets full of women in light blue burkas and black or grey chadors. It’s inconceivable that in a desert country the fabrics utilized by women are a hundred percent polyester; yet underneath the burka or chador there are more layers of cloth, like the obligatory scarf that covers head and shoulders, long tunics, and pants. I find myself asking Hassina if she’s not cooking in there, and she answers she no longer thinks about it, ’cause there’s nothing she can do about it. Indeed, we get exhausted under the ardent sun: there’s not a cloud, or a small café to sit awhile. We wait until lunch time to look for a restaurant where there’s only women, or a family-style one where the men are out front in the first room. At the latter we continue down the hallway to sit in the women’s area as close as possible to a small fan to reduce the intense steam from kitchen and desert, but under the chador we continue to roast.
An order of lamb and basmati rice, with pomegranate and saffron fried seeds as garnish actually breaks the routine of eating pasta and salad, salad and pasta, and okra, spinach and potatoes eaten daily at my refuge.
Today I’m going to an Afghan wedding; I’m leaving in a few minutes. I’ll be alone in the women’s area, without knowing a soul, but hoping to see with my very own eyes something I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. I thank my friend, who invited me over to Afghanistan.”
—Irene Carlos, Guatemala
P.S. Photographs will follow as soon as I can find a computer to send them!
—Translation by Silvia Piza-Tandlich
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“…It’s inconceivable that in a desert country the fabrics utilized by women are a hundred percent polyester…” Quote and photo: Irene Carlos

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Men tend to their stores, where women are not allowed to work. Yet, the Afghan culture is quite friendly.
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Amir is a weaver and owner of “Pamir Kashmir” distributor on Chicken Street in Kabul. Photo: Irene Carlos

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Irene entering Amir’s distributing store in Kabul. Pashminas on the ground floor, and all the weaving operation upstairs, men weave and women make rugs. Photo: Irene Carlos

Note, 2016: May I congratulate Irene Carlos on her latest article, published by the European Textile Network. 

—Silvia Piza-Tandlich

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Bamyan, capital of the province of Bamyan in central Afghanistan, means "The Place of Shining Light." Its population of 62,000 still shows traces of a blend of Greek, Turkish, Persian, Chinese, and Indian cultures since the town sits on the ancient Silk Route, forming now the Hazara ethnic group of Afghanistan. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Bamyan, capital of the province of Bamyan in central Afghanistan, means “The Place of Shining Light.” Its population of 62,000 still shows traces of a blend of Greek, Turkish, Persian, Chinese, and Indian cultures since the town sits on the ancient Silk Route, forming now the Hazara ethnic group of Afghanistan.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

Bamyan stands out in History by its prominent Buddha sculptures, built in the 6th Century AD as a holy Buddhist site. They were 55 meters and 37 meters high, carved in sandstone. Demolished by the Taliban in March 2001 after being declared idols. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Bamyan stands out in History by its prominent Buddha sculptures, built in the 6th Century AD as a holy Buddhist site. They were 55 meters and 37 meters high, carved in sandstone.
Demolished by the Taliban in March 2001 after being declared idols.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

Life is tough for people living in rural areas. Bamyan is a small town with a bazaar at its center. It has no infrastructure of electricity, gas, or water supplies. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Life is tough for people living in rural areas. Bamyan is a small town with a bazaar at its center. It has no infrastructure of electricity, gas, or water supplies.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

Despite war and poverty, children in the countryside continue to be educated in school, while a textile tradition continues at home. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Despite war and poverty, children in the countryside continue to be educated in school, while a textile tradition continues at home.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

At last without the chador, Irene enjoys a little bit of fresh air and sightseeing in Shahr-e Zohak.

At last without the chador, Irene enjoys a little bit of fresh air and sightseeing in Shahr-e Zohak.

Waiting to enjoy sone Naan bread—the national bread of Afghanistan. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Waiting to enjoy sone Naan bread—the national bread of Afghanistan.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

Herding and trading continue to be important in Bamyan life. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Herding and trading continue to be important in Bamyan life.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

Female enrollment in schools in Bamiyan has surged in the last decade, and Bamyan now has a female governor. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Female enrollment in schools in Bamiyan has surged in the last decade, and Bamyan now has a female governor.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

Not the traditional fancy dresses, or the luxurious silk one would expect. Afghan clothing includes men's turbans, the Perahan with modern side slits, tsādar or shawl, the Firaq which is like a skirt, and the Partug or shalwar. Weather permitting, poor women prefer to wear the Chador, without having to display anything else. Photo: Irene Carlos.

Not the traditional fancy dresses, or the luxurious silk one would expect. Afghan clothing includes men’s turbans, the Perahan with modern side slits, tsādar or shawl, the Firaq which is like a skirt, and the Partug or shalwar. Weather permitting, poor women prefer to wear the Chador, without having to display anything else.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

A lot of activity in one of the deep blue lakes at Band-e Amir National Park near Bamyan City. Photo: Irene Carlos.

A lot of activity in one of the deep blue lakes at Band-e Amir National Park near Bamyan City.
Photo: Irene Carlos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our traveler posing with the lake beauty of Band-e Amir National Park behind her.

Our traveler posing with the lake beauty of Band-e Amir National Park behind her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“HERBARIO” in Antigua, Guatemala

“HERBARIUM” EXPOSITION

 at “El Sitio”  – ANTIGUA-GUATEMALA

January 14 – March 8, 2012

Marie-Noëlle Fontan’s prime materials are plants and their own forms and textures: roots, stems, pods and leaves, which maintain their form but not their order. This material is collected during Marie-Noëlle’s frequent travels.

Tangling, handling, spinning and weaving plants on her loom, she achieves her own form of landscaping to nourish our senses and imagination.

 

Marie-Noëlle’s work can be deemed as a return to the natural sources in textile art.

This week she inaugurated her exhibition “HERBARIO” in Guatemala, which will be open to the public until March 8.

Contact the artist: www.marie-noelle-fontan.com

—Silvia Piza-Tandlich, translation

NEW IMPRESSIONS FROM BAMIYAN, AFGHANISTAN

The following is another description of Irene Carlos’s trip to Afghanistan. This is not a textile trip so far, but it is fascinating, indeed!

Dear Silvia, I don’t have internet (it took almost two days to find this small internet place.) When I get back to Guatemala I will try to send photos to upload on the blog.

From Kabul they placed me on a waiting list to travel to Bamiyan, the central region of Afghanistan.

In order to get to the Kabul airport one must go through several check and search points where traffic lines up at the entrance, so the taxi driver left me about 500 meters from the first search point.

As a woman, I had to enter the small rooms destined for checking luggage, handbags, breasts, hips, between legs and feet…two or three of these check points before looking for the gate for national flights. I made it in!

I board the helicopter, at last!, but after a few minutes the flight is suspended for security reasons. All of us unknown people, look at each other with expressions of WHAT? But for many this happens all the time, with the difference that they get picked up by their international office vehicles, whereas I get to pay a taxi again! Luckily they decide to wait many minutes together, and we finally fly. I can’t believe it!

Earth, sand, minerals, ocre, rose, grey, and suddenly a small oasis in green, with a creek coming down the snowy mountains. I wonder how they communicate with each other? Where are the roads? How do women give birth? Ahead, the IndoKush…so beautiful: the snowy peaks and then the greenest valley of all—Bamiyan! An Afghan man points at the empty space leftover from the 138 meter high Buddha statue. We’re there!

I’m in a small hostel with five white rooms and a terrace overlooking the potato and wheat fields, and beyond, the pink and brown mountain where the oldest Buddhist monastery used to be, with its 700 caves that once held their Lamas. It’s so spectacular and pristine after being in the cities of Herat and Kabul, that my heart gets overtaken with joy. There’s no electricity and everyone uses generators, candles, or solar panels.

A couple of Azara brothers have been so good to me and I really feel welcome. One of them took me to visit the remains of Buddhist temples. Something incredible. Now all the Bamiyan community is Azara, chiite.

Bamiyan is the only peaceful place in Afghanistan at the moment. Previously its kingdoms fought for centuries, forcing migration to mountains, Iran, or Pakistan from Shas and taliban during the last two centuries. Women don’t wear burkas although some sunni Pashtun women do.

Irene Carlos, Guatemalan painter and mixed media textile artist.

I, with all the layers of shawls and pashminas (fine cashmere wool covers), give myself away by my way of walking, my shoes or my eyeglasses—they’re not dark, but they’re made by some Italian designer having nothing to do here… A friend invited me to dinner with his wife. We ate basmati rice, roasted meat, fried potatoes and spinach, with watermelon for dessert… On the way home I realize that many bazaars become homes at night, and one can see people’s shadows as they spread the rugs on the floor to sleep…

I return to my room and tell myself how far away I am!

A strong hug to you from Irene Carlos.

—Silvia Piza-Tandlich

Encounter: Redtextilia

Encounter: IberoAmerican Textile Network (Redtextilia)

San José, Costa Rica – September, 2010

To view photos of the Encounter, visit    https://picasaweb.google.com/118006843679432349679

Irene Carlos, a Guatemalan artist working in textiles, mixed-media textiles, and television production, was a participant in the juried international Redtextilia Encounter’s competition: “Sustainable Tradition & Responsible Innovation”.

The exhibit took place at the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center’s Wanamaker Gallery.

Below is a photograph of Irene’s work, with SDA member Lia Cook’s work in the background. Lia was a well-liked lecturer at the Encounter.

Work by Irene Carlos

Work by Lia Cook

Susan Taber-Avila, Carol Westfall, and Carolyn Kallenborn also offered very interesting lectures. Here’s Susan’s work at the Invited Artists’ Exhibit, Omar Dengo Foundation, Costa Rica:

Susan Taber-Avila, Omar Dengo Foundation exhibit, Costa Rica

detail, Susan Taber-Avilas work, Omar Dengo Foundation, Costa Rica

SDA LatinAmerican Rep Silvia Piza-Tandlich participated in four exhibits during the Encounter: The Affiliates’ Exhibit, Invited Artists’ Exhibit, Costa Rican Textile Creation Exhibit (at the Cartago Municipal Museum), and her own indoor intervention, “Metamorphosis: A New Cycle” at the National Museum.  www.galeriaoctagono.com     www.metamorfosishabitat.com

Silvia Piza-Tandlich, "Kaleidoscope", Omar Dengo Foundation, Costa Rica

Silvia’s piece on the left was chosen as background logo for the Encounter, which was the culmination of four years of association of artists of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

European Textile Network (ETN) President, Lala de Dios; Surface Design Association (SDA) President, Candace Edgerley; and IberoAmerican Textile Network (Redtextilia) President, Paulina Ortiz, formed a textile alliance during this Encounter in Costa Rica.

Silvia Piza-Tandlich, "Without Tobacco" Affiliates Exhibit, San José, Costa Rica

Silvia Piza-Tandlich, "Aurora", Cartago Municipal Museum

Silvia Piza-Tandlich, "Metamorphosis: A New Cycle." Fantasy intervention, 102 works within 11 spaces.


Visit the SDA Newsblog archive for November, 2010 to view SDA President Candace Edgerley’s article about the Encounter.

Carol Westfall during her conference.

Lia Cook and Rebecca Stevens (Textile Museum, Washington D.C.), give a lecture at Veritas University, Costa Rica

One of the Encounter’s most interesting activities was the Latin American Textile Fair, where many artists showed and sold crafts and materials from their own region, or their own creations.

SDA President Candace Edgerley, and members Joan Hutten and Ann Liddle at LatinAmerican Textile Fair, Mexico Cultural Institute, Costa Rica, September 19, 2010.

—Silvia Piza-Tandlich, translation