Painter Sara Rahmani captures horror and hope in Afghanistan with moving works


On August 22, a week after Kabul fell under Taliban control and days after three men, desperate to flee the country, died after clinging to a US military plane, Sara Rahmani shared a painting that quickly went viral.

Executed in austere black and white, with a single diagonal stripe of bright color cutting the canvas in half, the painting captures a young Afghan girl, smiling as a tear drops from her right eye.

In the black and white sections of the painting, figures fall to the ground as a plane flies overhead. A man, in the middle of a faceless crowd, passes a swaddled baby to a soldier through spools of barbed wire.

I had an idea that even though we are in dark days of our life and our country … we still have a glimmer of hope

Sara Rahmani, artist

In the colorful part of the image, which includes the girl’s smile on her closed lips, the wing of the plane transforms into the wing of a dove and a woman dressed in shiny Afghan clothing dances next to it. another who writes the word “peace” in Farsi.

“I always wanted to show the best images of my country through my works, but today we have nothing left. We came back 20 years ago, ”Rahmani wrote on Instagram. “My dear Afghanistan… I am sorry for the silence of the world.

Rahmani started painting before Afghanistan fell under Taliban control. “I intended to paint a portrait of this little Afghan girl. I love the eyes and the way she smiled, ”she said.

“Then when it all happened in a week, we had a protest here in San Diego, so I wanted to create something that was really effective to show our emotions, what we were going through these few days.”

Rahmani, 23, has lived in San Diego since 2017 after his father, who worked for a US company, received a special immigrant visa.

Seeing from afar the brutal and rapid fall of her homeland to the Taliban, desperately worried for her remaining family members in Kabul, one of whom was forced into hiding, she completely changed the concept of her painting.

“After I started painting, I thought to myself, ‘This girl is not happy right now. Why should I paint it this way? ‘ “, she says. But having always tried to show Afghanistan in a positive light, she wanted to convey her wish for a better future.

“I got the idea that even though we are in dark days of our life and our country… we still have a glimmer of hope, so I used this colorful part of the painting as a glow. hope.”

The work has attracted tens of thousands of views. “I didn’t expect to go viral with this painting. It was really moving for me… I cried a lot over this painting, ”she says.

Born and raised in Kabul, where she attended high school and college, Rahmani studied civil engineering before moving to California at the age of 19. She says that since the withdrawal of US troops last month, her friends in the Afghan capital, including several women who worked as civilian engineers, are afraid to leave their homes.

“I had so many friends working there. After that, they are all unemployed. They are stuck at home and everyone is so scared, ”she said. “Most of the stores and offices are closed right now, so how can they make any money? After a month without work, without food, without anything, how to survive? It is really difficult for all Afghans, especially women.

Despite moving to the United States four years ago, Rahmani has not had it easy. First struggling with English, she found herself having to repeat her studies.

“Even if you know English, when you come here it’s totally different,” she says. “They didn’t accept the documents there, my transcripts, so I started over here with college in civil engineering and this is my second year. The first year, I was not really happy but I had to keep going and achieve my goals, my dreams.

Rahmani began painting at the age of 15, taking two months of art classes in Kabul before academic demands forced her to resign. Having always viewed painting as a hobby, she continued to create new works of art in America, drawing inspiration from photographs to present Afghan culture in a positive light.

“We have so many talented photographers in Afghanistan,” she says. “There is Fatimah Hossaini, Roya Heydari and so many other talented and famous photographers. I get my ideas from them.

“They were my models and I was inspired by their work when I started, especially Avizeh, which designs Afghan clothing, jewelry and great photography of Afghan girls and women.”

Rahmani’s paintings aim to show a different side of Afghanistan. “My goal was to show the beautiful face of my country – our culture, our traditions – because we have a rich culture,” she says.

“When you Google Afghanistan, it’s all about war, blood, all of that stuff – the poor. We have so many great photos of our country – beautiful places, beautiful people, nice people. I want to show this face of my country, not the war. “

But now she feels compelled to change her approach.

“Right now, I believe we have to do it,” she said. “It is our responsibility to show what is happening right now in our country and I will do my best… to make the world aware of this situation… Yet I keep the beauty in my paintings and I never want to hide this face . “

Although she never intended to pursue a career in painting, Rahmani says she was inspired to reconsider.

“I never wanted to paint as a job, but I realized I had to do something with my art. People encouraged me a lot.”

Updated: September 24, 2021, 04:16

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