I hope you and your family are staying well and getting ready to celebrate Halloween in whatever way is safe and meaningful to you, this year. With pumpkin season upon us I thought you might want to make some Borani Kadoo, Afghan braised pumpkin but today’s post is not about food.
A few months ago when doing a search for cultural symbols, I discovered a series of colorful artistic heart symbols representing Indian, German, Russian, and many other countries cultural heritage. I thought to myself that I could make one for Afghanistan since most often than not, Afghanistan is associated with war and destruction rather than it’s rich cultural heritage. Of course, my first quandary was about how to best capture the diversity of Afghanistan with 14 ethnic groups spread across 34 provinces with varying cultural practices in such limited space.
To begin with, I made a list of items, places, and symbols that I associated with Afghanistan and then used that as a jumping-off point to solicit input from the Afghan community on Facebook on what they associate with Afghanistan. The list of suggestions was long and colorful. It included Istalif pottery, Minaret-e-Ghazni, Bagh-e-Babur, Mawlawna Rumi and many other notable people and symbols which did not make it in the final heart. What I did was choose symbols/items that were suggested numerous times in my crowd-sourced list which I juxtaposed against Afghanistan’s National Symbols List, to make sure that each item in the heart has a cultural significance to a large number of people.
Considering there is a long running dispute over cultural misrepresentation and heritage thievery among the different ethnicities in Afghanistan, this is when I raise a white flag to say that this is not meant to be a complete or official representation of Afghanistan but a glimpse into the country and its culture as I identified with my limited outreach.
We used dark blue the color of Lapiz Lazuli, a semi-precious stone mainly found in Afghanistan, as the outline which encases the following symbols of this ‘Afghanistan Heart Symbol’.
Red tulip is the national flower of Afghanistan and the symbol of Nowroz, the Afghan New Year.
Dambura is a lute played mainly in Tajik and Uzbek folk music.
Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan
Afghan green grapes are famous in Central Asia and are a major export, both fresh and dried as green raisins, to neighboring countries.
Hindukush Mountains, an 800-kilometer mountain range that runs through Afghanistan and has been written about in folktales and modern novels.
Afghan woman in traditional clothes doing the Afghan national dance--attan. Traditionally attan was performed by men but now both men and women perform this communal dance at end of a wedding, engagement or and Nowroz celebrations.
Rubab is a lute-like instrument played by trained masters and their students in classic Afghan music. It’s the national instrument of Afghanistan.
Buddhas of Bamiyan were two, 6th-century statues carved into the side of a cliff in Bamiyan valley. The historically significant monuments were defaced by the Taliban in 2001 and now they stand as a stark reminder of the cultural and human destruction that could return if the Taliban gain power in Afghanistan.
Pomegranate is the national fruit of Afghanistan and if you want to learn how to deseed one in 30-seconds, watch my Afghan hack video.
Tabla is a pair of hand drums, from the Indian Subcontinent, used as a percussion instrument in most Afghan folk and classical music. Salar Nader is a talented and sought after Afghan percussionist who lives in California.
Kite flying is the national pastime for Afghan men and boys but I have to admit, when I was a little girl in Kabul, I dabbled in kite flying with my brothers. I was thrilled when my friend Khaled Hosseini’s book The Kite Runner made Afghanistan’s kite flying scene world famous.
The creation of the heart was a collaboration with Emily Rupright, an architecture student at Washington University in St. Louis. Emily was a thoughtful, patient, and a great collaborator, and today she celebrates her 21st birthday. Happy birthday Emily!
I started this blog over eight years ago with an American friend who is a food writer. Our goal was to showcase my family’s Afghan recipes and inspire others to cook Afghan food. Over the years this blog has turned into a source not only for Afghan food recipes but also for information on Afghan culture. Although my passion is around Afghanistan but my heart and devotion as a patriot is in the United States, where I’ve lived the majority of my life. My husband and I vote at every election but this year we feel compelled to do more. As a family we wrote letters to low turn out voters in Georgia and Arizona, encouraging them to vote. We made calls for candidates who we feel will create a better future for our children and my husband Jim is going to be a poll worker in San Francisco where he’ll be in the front line of making sure that we uphold our democracy.
I would love to hear from you about how you’re engaging in this year’s US election and if you’re voting early, by mail, or in person on November 3rd.
NOTE: I would be happy for any of you to use this image on social media or works you create but please ask permission and credit me and my blog Afghan Culture Unveiled as the source and creator.
Except where otherwise noted, all content on this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.