Mittwoch, 30. Dezember 2015

Into 2016: change makers

2015 seems to end with dull echoes on the next months to come: battles in Helmand with the spectre of a '2nd Kunduz', the young generation continuing to leave the country. But whoever continues to go and spend time in Kabul and in Afghanistan's provinces will be able to witness work of those parts of the society though who believe in change and are working hard to improve living conditions and keep hope afloat. My favorite this year in this context is the 2nd annual Students' theater festival (from nov. 8th to 11th 2015) eager and pragmatic in spirit to win back an audience after the murderous attack on a theater performance in Esteqlal lycée last december. Here are some pictures I took during this year's festival, including some rehearsals that students partly perform in private rooms due to the scarcety of official rehearsal rooms. The Festival, without any exaggeration, can be seen as a means by youths and academics who had orgainzed it, to try and keep a young generation in the country rather than to have them migrating abroad due to a lack of security and a deep economic crisis. The Festival was in fact the first event in which actors would appear publically on stage again as a sign to fight terrorism and let arts and cultural indentity revive. Just about a year ago, a suicide bomber had exploded himself during a running theater performance at Esteqlal Lycée, Kabul, killing one person and wounding many. For this year's Students's Festival, security precautions were taken, with Theater students and staff strict and searching spectators for their own security. With an audience of some 350 mostly young people daily on all four days, many females came to see the plays. It is to say that acting on stage for women in Afghanistan remains diffictult. Women speaking out loud in public are considered a taboo in Afghanistan's male-dominated society. They face with restrictions in their theater roles (a female addict cannot play out her role to the full degree without possible consequences) and professional careers. Laughing out loud in public is considered unusual and offensive to many a traditional Afghan man. Kabul's Faculty of Fine Arts, who hosted the Student's Theater Festival - on the contrary - took an open approach again this year, challenging the conservative fringe of society, even though the person in the picture above, playing an attractive US-female somewhere in Afghanistan, is a male Student and actor. See also my coverage here.

Samstag, 5. Dezember 2015

100 years Afghan-German relations: The Afghanistan we deserve

It is commonly known amongst many educated Afghans that a first delegation of the German Reich, military and diplomatic, arrived to Kabul in 1915 with the idea to win the Afghan King in the fight against the British Empire. But the plans for a German-led Jihad, enlisting different muslim countries and troops, against the Britisch influence in the Middle East and in Central asia, are not common with the German educated population nor even with most intellectuals. Why that is so, is an interesting question, discussed on the backstages of an Afghan cultural week in Berlin, initiated by the German Foreign office this week with regard to 100 years of official relations between Berlin and Kabul. It was not by chance that Ashraf Ghani extended his Europe stay for the occasion. In a way, he didn't have a choice: the problem of Afghan refugees being too pertinent for EU and German domestic policies, the question was whether Berlin and Kabul would be able to agree on taking back Afghan refugees that are rejected in their quest for asylum in Germany. Though there still seems to be no concrete outcome on the issue after Ghani's visit, the (general) German support for the economical emergency program the government of national unity has announced can hardly mask that the overriding wish of Berlin is that Afghanistan solves the crisis largely with domestic means. Though changes in this may come and are counted in, as the crisis – economical and security wise – will develop in the months ahead. Inseperably linked with each other all along the Culture Week, I have looked into what relates the art pieces, exhibitions and festival events of the official program with the behind scene talks and with the overarching policies of Western donors so far on the question of culture in post-conflict states. ______________________________________________ Essay WDR3 / German National Radio on Art & Politics in 100 years of German-Afghan relations Deutschlandfunk Audio /the ongoing migration from Kabul and Afghanistan to Germany and the European Dream of the younger Afghan generation Deutschlandfunk / Audio on political theater between conflict and refugee crisis Deutschlandfunk / Audio on Who is Daesh/ISIS in Afghanistan?