To many Americans, the mention of Afghanistan conjures up images of the Taliban, women covered completely in burqas and Osama bin Laden hiding in caves. Even after Sept. 11, many Americans don’t know about Afghanistan’s rich history and culture, they only know about the country in relation to the devastating current events.
That is why Dr. David Austell, director of USF International Student and Scholar Services, decided to enrich International Education Week (Nov. 17-21) by arranging for Luke Powell’s “Afghan Folio.”
Powell, a photographer who spent much of the past 30 years in Afghanistan, visited the country first in 1974.
His “Afghan Folio” is a series of 32 pictures shot in Afghanistan between 1974 and 1979. They include wide-angled landscapes of Afghanistan’s green rolling hills, showing vast spans of land with sparse human or camel to provide scale. Other images include mosques covered in colorful mosaic tile, men shopping and trading at open-air bazaars and a mischievous young boy with a slingshot around his neck.
Many of these pictures provide history lessons that would take much longer to explain in words. One such picture is of donkeys traveling down ancient roads to the mines. According to Powell’s caption, lapis lazuli from the mine in the picture were used in King Tut’s tomb and provided blue pigment for famous renaissance paintings. The roads in the picture were in use even before Afghans had domesticated donkeys.
Austell has been aware of Powell’s work for over 20 years, but first contacted Powell a year ago when he came up with idea of bringing Powell to Tampa this month. He accomplished his goal of bringing something artistic as well as timely to USF.
“I think people will be interested in seeing the photographs because of the current importance of Afghanistan and the connection of terrorist organizations with Afghanistan,” Austell said.
“They will be interested in seeing a part of the world they might not be aware of. Also, they will see Afghanistan through the eyes of the artist rather than through the eyes of the media,” he said.
Powell has become an expert on Afghanistan and experienced the country in several different contexts.
“He’s been in Afghanistan most of this time, in very isolated area of Afghanistan, working for the UN, photographing and also dealing with mine disposal. (He performed) very dangerous and isolated work,” Austell said.
His work also had other repercussions. Powell returned to the United States less than a month ago seriously ill. His speech at the engagement in the Grace Allen Room yesterday, for the opening ceremony for his show, had to be cancelled.
“He was in the hospital until about a week ago. The doctors were not clear on what was going on with his health, and given concerns about SARS and other infectious disease, they thought it was unwise for him to travel. A future speaking engagement is in the works,” Austell said.
Luke Powell’s exhibit, Afghan Folio, will be in the Grace Allen Room on the fourth floor of the Library this entire month. The exhibit is free. More information is available at www.lukepowell.com .
Contact Mary Alice Grovesat firstname.lastname@example.org