Young Afghan artist creates haunting image of her homeland’s fall to the Taliban
A couple days before the Taliban took over Kabul, Sara Rahmani was sketching in her free time, sitting at her home in California, thousands of miles away from where her heart lies: Afghanistan.”I just started this painting of (a) beautiful girl as usual, because I love to show the beautiful sides of my people, my culture and our beautiful kids over there,” she said. “I started sketching and just painting, and colored the eyes. After a couple days … they took over Kabul and I had such pain in my heart.”Rahmani and her family came to America four years ago on Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). Her father was working for an American company. Now Rahmani is going to civil engineering school in the US, and enjoys art as a hobby. Prior to moving, Rahmani had also been taking civil engineering classes in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where she lived most of her life.”I’m really sorry for my college, and the girls that were working with me over there,” she said. “They’re really frustrated and really in a bad situation. They don’t know what’s going to happen to their future.”Rahmani said many of the young women she went to college with were working in offices but are now unemployed and struggling. They have told her they cannot wear what they want and need to be escorted by a man when leaving their homes.As Rahmani glanced at her painting, her voice was full of emotion.
In the bottom left of the painting she incorporated the colors of Afghanistan’s national flag. Two women are pictured wearing traditional dress, with braids and jewelry showing the country’s rich culture, Rahmani said. One is performing a traditional dance that Afghans often perform at special events such as weddings, while the other is writing “peace” in Farsi, using the black part of the Afghan flag as a blackboard.Rahmani then pointed to the girl in the center of the image.”This is the portrait of the girl that I started, and it really turned sad,” she said. “You see the good side, when she has a splinter of light — it’s all about the good side of my Afghanistan before the Taliban took over our country. She’s a happy girl and she has dirty hands from playing with other kids.”Pointing to the yellow flower at the top, Rahmani said: “And this is a beautiful flower that she’s getting from her grandpa.” The scarf on the girl’s head is green — the color of peace, joy and happiness for Afghans, she explained. “It’s a blue sky full of peace, sunny days, happiness and the birds flying instead of army airplanes.”On the right side in gray, however, are depictions of the desperate people who reportedly fell from a US military aircraft during the chaotic evacuation of Kabul. Beneath them are “people waiting at the gate of the airport with the paperwork, and some of them with nothing … and the guy who is just trying to send his baby (over the fence) to make sure his next generation is in peace,” Rahmani said.Looking up from her pictures, she said: “To be in America, I feel better here. But at the same time it’s not your country. You feel strange. Your language is different, your culture. Everything is different, even if you have peace of mind financially … something is missing in your heart — that is your homeland. Nothing can replace that.”Tears formed and began trickling down Rahmani’s cheeks. “I want the world to know that … there are innocent people who are getting killed. They lose mothers, they lose kids … when is this going to end?”Rahmani said she now thinks of her family and friends who remain in the country. “All these ten days, I lost count, we’re just focusing to get our families out of Afghanistan. It’s horrible over there.”