hidden inner feelings

jahan ara rafi

jahan ara rafi is a kabul-based painter, who hails from baghlan province in afghanistan. she began her craft at the turn of the century in islamabad, pakistan. in two thousand and two, she began studying at the faculty of fine arts at the university of kabul, where she also trained in photography and documentary film making. her impressionistic paintings speak of the sorrows of life along with the hope; capturing the cityscape, the wilderness and portraits, in colours that subtly evoke the mood. jahan was central in establishing the centre for women artists and has exhibited around the globe.
interview with i.t.a.

check the jahan ara rafi gallery

jahan, thank you so much for speaking with us at powder. we fell in love with your art when we first viewed it and have no trouble in understanding why it has taken you around the globe.

well jahan, this issue of our magazine is called afghan powder. how would you describe the scene in kabul for artists at the moment?

Afghanistan is a country that has suffered more than three decades of war and conflict. The ongoing conflicts have affected the country's economic, social and political stability; it’s education, health and infrastructure. As the conflicts affected all the residents in the country, it has also negatively affected the value of art and artists. Currently, there are few or no job opportunities for artists. However, by establishing limited art centers in Afghanistan, encouragement of people to understand the value of art and also organizing a number of exhibitions around the country by new artists, this has created an artistic revolution in Afghanistan.

your art arouses strong emotion in the viewer. how do you choose your subject matter and from there how do you capture it?

My art reflects my personality - knowing my art means understanding my personality. I think differently and different colors reflect my hidden inner feelings. I consider myself a sensitive and apparently calm person, which is contrary to my inner uproar. The inner uproar that a calm person has for freedom, prosperity and human dignity for her people and for resistance against any type of discrimination.

In my life, I have suffered mainly from lack of freedom. Unfortunately, this society has not been able to define it for me. My paintings and art work also reflect this tragedy.

what made your realise that art was your road to travel down?

Art is connected to one's inner feelings. It is like a foetus in mind which grows into an opinion. I create art based on my own self-motivations and different thoughts.

which artists influence you locally in afghanistan and which inspire you internationally?

I respect all the local artists in Afghanistan and like their works. My inner feelings and thoughts create my art work. From international artists, I like Picasso’s paintings and art work.

you began pursuing your art in two thousand and two in islamabad. why were you in islamabad at the time?

Like other people who escaped war, I was also living in Islamabad, Pakistan.

later you studied at the university of kabul. what is kabul uni like and what was life like for you when studying there?

Kabul University is one of the best higher education institutions in Afghanistan that has different faculties where students are busy with pursuance of their higher education in different fields. Without a doubt, the institution has improved a lot lately.

you come from baghlan province. what is that part of afghanistan like and how was life there for you?

Since the age of six, I have been living in Kabul. In general, life is more challenging in Baghlan than Kabul, especially for women.

what is life like for women in afghanistan today?

Throughout our history in Afghanistan, the changes of different regimes have had negative effects upon women. Today, the situation of women in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan is changing considerably in different areas, such as socially, politically, culturally and educationally. We can witness considerable activism by women in these mentioned areas.

you established the centre for women artists in collaboration with many other female artists. how is the centre going today and what was it like when you first founded it?

I, along with three other female artists and Mr Abdul Wasi Rahraw Omarzad, established an art centre in Kabul, with firm determination, to teach painting, professional photography and also modern art for women. The major role we played was to encourage young women to understand the value of art and become artists. The art centre also organized many exhibitions for the students' art work. Today the centre that was established by five artists has changed into a big forum of young artists.

your art exhibitions have taken you all over the world. where have you been and what have been the most memorable places?

Yes, my art work/paintings were exhibited at different exhibitions in countries like Germany, Italy and India. I also had a cultural tour of Germany in 2008.

lastly, what will you be doing in twenty fourteen? what projects do you have coming up?

I have many plans for 2014 and the coming years that I am currently working on. When the plans will be implemented, I will confirm.

jahan it has been a real pleasure to speak with you here at powder. we find your work inspiring and look forward to seeing your next pieces.

jahan ara rafi at kabul art project