People who discovered their Passion

These are stories of people who will inspire. Maybe you can find in them, a spark, a desire, a passion to find their purpose.

If you know of someone who provides a good example, feel free to send me the details so that I can add them here.

Finding art and hope in the ruins

(From The Age, 19/12/2010)

TO SHAKE hands with Lida Abdul is to clasp a palm as small and fragile as the hand of Fatima amulet that hangs from a chain around her neck. This lightness of touch will come as no surprise to those familiar with her work.

The Kabul-born artist is, among other things, revered for her ability to find hope in desperate human conditions. She composes poetry from fractured dialogues, and this extraordinary visual lyricism links each of the works in Ruins: Stories of Awakening, which opens at Anna Schwartz Gallery this week.

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Abdul’s canvas is the landscape of her war-ravaged homeland of Afghanistan and the silent ”conversations” she explores, perhaps most powerfully through her short video works, exist between the people of Kabul and their memories of a city they once lived in, and a life they once lived. Her works have taken her from the Venice Biennale and the Tate Modern to exhibitions as far afield as Spain, Kyrgyzstan and, soon, the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

As she travels, she hopes her work will offer a window on to a country little known beyond harrowing news bulletins. She also hopes to open a space in which there are no good guys and no bad guys, but rather a recognition of shared humanity. ”On a very basic human level all I can see is fear, and until this fear is overcome there is no way of seeing how connected we really are, no way of moving forward.”

In Once upon Awakening, a group of men robed in black are filmed tugging at a series of ropes, which extend like tentacles from a bombed building, the remains of Kabul’s Presidential Palace. As the men pull, the camera oscillates between their expressions and the crumbling walls to which they are tied. The work was a collaboration with students from a Kabul University, many of whom initially struggled to understand Abdul’s approach. ”At first they thought the idea was absurd, why would you pull these ruins down? Then they understood, oh, you’re trying to deal with the history and the idea of Kabul.”

After a time, the students also came to grasp the way in which physical ruins might serve as metaphors for splinters of memory. Abdul is drawn to the question of whether, just as crumbling structures are demolished to make way for new buildings, people’s psychological devastation must be dismantled to create space for hope. ”Can we keep part of that history and rebuild upon it as a part of a healing process?” she asks. ”What must be kept, and what must be left behind? Really it is something we are all trying to find, a way to cope with these questions.”

Abdul was born in Afghanistan in 1973 and left at the age of 12 during the first wave of the Soviet invasion. After living in India and Germany, she returned to Kabul in her late 20s. ”There were many reasons to return. Kabul was where I grew up, where all my formative memories are. The Kabul I knew was the place people called the Paris of Central Asia. My mother used to wear mini-skirts in the ’70s and my neighbours were Swedish and French. It was this amazing place to be! So I went back and it took me a long time to understand that the place I remembered didn’t exist any more. There was another kind of Kabul that I needed to understand.”

The only way to understand was to immerse herself in the city’s realities: daily bomb blasts, power outages, restrictions preventing her from driving a car or leaving the house unaccompanied. ”Just to be there is to feel this daily pain and suffering. People must be taken to hospital, they need medicine.” As incongruous as it seems to create art in such disarray, Abdul believes it makes perfect sense. ”Really, it is precisely because of these interruptions, this reality, that different spaces open up. ”

While much of her work is meticulously researched, other pieces, such as Dome, draw on chance encounters. ”I was searching that day, I don’t know what I was searching for. But I found (the boy) and it was just such a joy because he was just in his own world, dancing in the ruins.”

Abdul filmed the boy, who whirls like a dervish with his face pointed towards the sky, and found the resulting dreamscape touched on her concerns about how children relate to war.

”They are growing up around fractured space, they don’t see wholeness. How are they affected by that? But they are so resilient, and they don’t have anything to compare it to.”

Here is the story of someone who followed their passion.



Susan Jeffers


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