An Afghan artist reclaiming her power

As the second anniversary of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan approaches, the country continues to struggle with political upheaval and uncertainty. One person impacted by this turmoil is Nazdana Bakhtiari. Nazdana is a talented artist who escaped Afghanistan with the assistance of the Australian Defence Force. Her story is a poignant reflection of her home country’s complex political situation.  

In an interview with Nazdana she shares insights into her artistic development and the influence her new life in Australia has on her art. Nazdana uses her paintings as an outlet to bravely shed light on the Afghan people’s struggles, resilience, and hope.  

Nazdana’s journey as an artist began during her childhood in Afghanistan, a time marred by political unrest and social challenges. Despite the turbulent backdrop, Nazdana’s artistic talent shone through when her teachers assigned her art projects. This creative practice became a sanctuary for her, allowing her to express herself in a world where uncertainty and fear were prevalent.  

Fast forward to early adulthood and the political situation stabilised somewhat to allow women and girls to pursue an education and explore artistic interests. But with the Taliban’s resurgence in 2021, uncertainty and fear returned. This significantly impacted art and education. Under the extremist regime, creative expression was stifled and art became a dangerous endeavour. The Taliban’s rigid interpretation of Islamic law led to the suppression of artistic freedom, forcing many artists to abandon their craft or work underground in secrecy. The education of girls and women immediately faced severe restrictions with schools and universities shut down, snatching away the dreams and aspirations of countless young minds.  

Nazdana fled Afghanistan and found safety in Australia. It was here that Nazdana’s artistic journey took an unforeseen path. She discovered herself immersed in a society that embraced diversity, and her surroundings inspired a transformation in her art. Nazdana explains that in Afghanistan her art style was realism with the inspiration for her paintings coming from scenes of life around her. But once in Australia she began to draw more on her imagination to influence her paintings.  

Nazdana Bakhtiari

Despite the physical distance from Afghanistan, Nazdana remains dedicated to preserving her cultural heritage through her art. Her paintings are often inspired by the untold stories of Afghan girls and women who bravely face adversity and emerge as symbols of strength and determination. When asked whether she has a favourite piece, Nazdana shares that she is especially fond of “The Free Woman”. Nazdana hopes her artwork reflects the strength of Afghan women and girls, past and present, which must not be overshadowed by the current turmoil in the country.  

Despite facing financial challenges, Nazdana remains steadfast in her commitment to her art and bringing attention to the plight of her homeland. Through her art, she hopes to advocate for change, raise awareness and contribute to empowering Afghan women. Her plan to study screen and media reflects her determination to leverage the power of visual storytelling to inspire conversations and ignite positive change.  

And conversations around the situation in Afghanistan must not fall silent. As the world commemorates two years since the Taliban’s resurgence, Nazdana’s art is not only a reflection of the struggles faced by the Afghan people, particularly women, but also a celebration of their unwavering resilience, courage and strength.  

In a world often divided by borders and ideologies, art can transcend boundaries and forge connections beyond culture, language, and nationality. It invites viewers to immerse themselves in the lived experiences of those in a land far from their own, often evoking empathy and compassion.  

Nazdana Bakhtiari embodies the strength of the human spirit. Her journey as an artist showcases the power of creative expression, even in the face of adversity. From her childhood in Afghanistan to finding refuge in Australia her art has evolved to reflect the impact of her experiences. It shows that art can bridge divides and shine a light on the resilience, hope, and shared humanity that unites us all.  

If you’d like to support Nazdana, head to her website to view her current artwork for sale.    

Nazdana Bakhtiari

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