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Virtual Exhibition: Fatana Arifi

Geometric shapes swirl and dance in a vibrant display of color. The shapes seem to fall apart and come together before your eyes, as you begin to recognize within the multi-layered canvas a variety of forms: a child, a mother, a nomad. Fatana Arifi is an Afghan artist currently residing in Virginia who has created her own art form, Handasism, which uses bright colors and several geometric shapes to convey images and ideas. Arifi had never imagined a decade ago that she would be in America publishing a book and copywriting a new form of artwork. However, she has only completed half her journey. Arifi wants to paint full-time and tell Afghanistan’s story to the entire world.

Accompanied by her sister Fariba Arifi, the two women explained their life-threatening journey from Pakistan to the U.S.   Fariba compared her sister’s work to that of Picasso’s, and said that “no great artist became well known without much struggle.” Arifi explained how she was struggling to become financially stable in order to do artwork full-time.

Arifi explained how every piece of artwork in her portfolio was inspired by a certain period of time in her life. Each piece originated from an image that stood still in her mind during the time she witnessed what seemed to be an entire nation trying to escape from warfare. She noted though, something that was “equally important” to documenting this point in history through art, was remembering Afghanistan for what it once was. Throughout her portfolio lay images of a much different Afghanistan, a peaceful Kabul, a youthful Ahmad Zahir, and streets filled with shopping centers and families. It was how she had remembered Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion.  These peaceful images are “ones most people have not seen,” she said.  The world has mostly familiarized Afghanistan as a war stricken country, and has “forgotten the true beauty of the country.” She hopes, that through her artwork, people are able to see a brighter, more hopeful vision of Afghanistan.

Arifi, who was recently profiled in the Washington Post article for her artistic ability, first came to the Embassy in September of 2005 as she struggled to find a means to publish her book Painting and Its Status in Afghanistan, which describes the history and importance of art in Afghanistan.  With help from the Embassy, Arifi’s book was published this year in Afghanistan through a government printing press. With her book published, Arifi is now focusing on her artwork.

On July 11, Arifi presented an autographed copy of her book to Political Counselor Ashraf Haidari in thanks for the Embassy’s support of Afghan artists and their works. “"It is you who preserves the Afghan culture and identity, and there is no greater way that the Embassy can serve Afghanistan than by supporting and promoting your brilliant work," said Haidari.


* All Images Copywrite Fariba Arifi

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