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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photos explore heart of Afghanistan


Last updated 13:40 25/04/2012

A DIFFERENT LIFE: Nikau Parker, left, and Talia Edlin check out photographs of people in Bamiyan taken for the Nelson Provincial Museum's latest exhibition, Bamiyan – The Heart of Afghanistan.

Meet the locals and see Bamiyan through their eyes. Learn about the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and check out a soldier's bedroom.

Read about the history of Afghanistan and absorb an interview with the country's first female provincial leader.

There's plenty to take in at the Nelson Provincial Museum's latest exhibition.

Bamiyan – The Heart of Afghanistan was created by Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures in Porirua, near Wellington, after they sent a photographer to Bamiyan to document life there.

While there, the photographer also distributed disposable cameras among the youth in the province and asked them to illustrate their lives.

Nelson Provincial Museum chief executive Peter Millward says the images present a completely different view of the world.

"It's just amazing. I think what it shows is that life is very tenuous and uncertain. Things that we take for granted are by no means a surety. You're looking at a country that has been experiencing conflict for hundreds and hundreds of years," he says.

To illustrate this point, the exhibition features life-sized cut-outs of a British soldier from 1812 and a New Zealand SAS soldier from 2012.

"There you are 200 years apart and the issues are still the same. That's the tragedy," says Mr Millward.

The photographs captured by Bamiyan's youth – aged 11 to 24 – illustrate home life and the region's stark landscape. They feature portraits, images of animals, roads and architecture.

Nelson Provincial Museum educator Imogen McCarthy says the exhibition is about the connection between the PRT presence and the people of Afghanistan.

The New Zealand PRT, based at Kiwi Base, took over command in Bamiyan in 2003.

Visitors to the exhibition can flick through a transcript of a 2009 interview with Afghanistan's first female provincial leader, Bamiyan governor Dr Habiba Sarabi.

Dr Sarabi said Afghans in Bamiyan were happy with the New Zealand military presence as the soldiers respected their culture. The exhibition also features works by New Zealand Defence Force artist Captain Matt Gauldie, who studied at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland and joined the army as its resident artist in 2005. Gauldie first documented New Zealand soldiers in the Solomon Islands, then travelled to Bamiyan in 2006.

Ms McCarthy went to Afghanistan in 1968 and 1978, during a "calm period". She hitch-hiked, travelling mostly in trucks.

"There wasn't much conflict going on when I was there. If there was, it was a long way away."

Ms McCarthy says the photographs by Bamiyan youth are the highlight of the exhibition.

"They're really personal and they tell you something about the child's life and what the child's focus is," she says.

Somayah, 16, focuses on roads and landscapes; 18-year-old Abdol Hamid's album includes images of a chicken, a baby chewing a book and a man reading.

Bamiyan – The Heart of Afghanistan runs until July at the Nelson Provincial Museum. Entry is free on Anzac Day.

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