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Shakespeare in Kabul

As part of the celebration surrounding the U.S. premiere of Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, a series photographs by world-renowned photographer Kate Brooks depicting an Afghan adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Love's Labour's Lost will go on display at the Harman Center for the Arts.  "Shakespeare in Kabul" will accompany the Washington Shakespeare Company’s performances of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra throughout the Spring and Summer of 2008.

Love's Labour's Lost was performed in Dari at Kabul’s Babur’s Gardens in the late summer of 2005. Hundreds of Afghans and expatriates came together to witness the spectacle of color, laughter and wordplay that is Shakespeare, performed in Afghanistan for the first time since the Soviet invasion in 1979. Located on the frontlines during the country’s two decades of war, Barbur’s Gardens were restored by The Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The gardens are said to have been a favorite of Mughul Emperor Zahir ud-Din Mohammad Jalal ud-Din Babur.

Onstage, the Afghan actors playing King Navarre and his noblemen renounce worldly pleasures for a life of study and austerity. Backstage, the four female leads nervously rehearse their lines, and delicately apply their make up. You may recognize Afghan actors from the celebrated films Osama and The Kite Runner.

“These images of a country in the midst of rebuilding remind us all that it takes more than roads and buildings to sustain a nation; a people that protect and preserve their culture ensure their own survival,” reads photographer Kate Brooks’ artist’s statement.

In accordance with the photographer’s wishes, proceeds from the sale of each image from “Shakespeare in Kabul” will benefit ImagineAsia’s rehabilitation of a girl’s high school in Bamiyan and provide power, an internet connection, and solar-powered lamps to the students. ImagineAsia helps children in Afghan communities by addressing education and health care needs through partnerships with community leaders and local NGO's.

American photographer Kate Brooks began covering Afghanistan during the battle of Tora Bora. Her photographs of the country have regularly been featured in TIME magazine and used by UNICEF to promote issues relating to women and children. Shakespeare in Afghanistan was made possible thanks to contributions by the National Geographic Society, the Harman Center for the Arts and the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC.


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