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An Afghan Artist Fears For The Future Of His Craft With The Taliban In Control

Wakil Kohsar
AFP via Getty Images
ArtLords co-creator Omaid Sharifi speaks during an interview at his studio in Kabul in August 2019. With the Taliban overrunning the capital on Sunday, he says his is unsure what the future holds for his art and his organization.

Updated August 16, 2021 at 1:08 PM ET

For Afghan artist Omaid Sharifi, and for many others living through the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the future is uncertain.

When the Taliban ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, creating art was dangerous. The Taliban disapproved of music, destroyed the giant carved Buddha statues of Bamiyan and banned all artistic representations of the human form.

Christine-Felice Röhrs / Picture Alliance via Getty Images
Picture Alliance via Getty Images
Omaid Sharifi (left) is the co-founder of the group ArtLords. He paints a wall mural showing a young girl at the NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2016.

Sharifi, co-founder and president of the nonprofit arts organization ArtLords, says his murals focus on empathy and kindness. "And I strongly believe that my country, a wounded country, it needs healing," he told NPR's Don Gonyea on Weekend All Things Considered. "And I am healing it through my art."

On Sunday, he and his organization were painting a mural on a Kabul street when the panic and chaos started. He posted this video on Twitter:

Despite the surreal events of the Taliban's move into the city, Sharifi told NPR he's hopeful:

"It feels that — I'm not sure I may be able to paint again or not. I'm not sure my organization will be there. I'm not sure if my paintings will be there tomorrow ... But still, in this day, a couple of hours ago, I was painting in a street of Kabul. And I hope I will be able to do it again."

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nell Clark
Nell Clark is an editor at Morning Edition and a writer for NPR's Live Blog. She pitches stories, edits interviews and reports breaking news. She started in radio at campus station WVFS at Florida State University, then covered climate change and the aftermath of Hurricane Michael for WFSU in Tallahassee, Fla. She joined NPR in 2019 as an intern at Weekend All Things Considered. She is proud to be a member of NPR's Peer-to-Peer Trauma Support Team, a network of staff trained to support colleagues dealing with trauma at work. Before NPR, she worked as a counselor at a sailing summer camp and as a researcher in a deep-sea genetics lab.
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