An Artist in Afghanistan

The violations of human rights in Afghanistan continue to drive major cultural figures from the country. One such refugee in 1985 was Ghausuddin, Afghanistan’s leading painter and graphic artist. In an interview with a representative of Helsinki Watch in Islamabad on August 28, 1985, he described the many pressures that finally forced him to flee Kabul on foot last April. He is seventy-three years old and suffers from the aftereffects of a heart attack.

—Jeri Laber, Helsinki Watch

I am seventy-three years old. I studied in Afghanistan at the Afghanistan Industrial High School under Afghan and foreign teachers, starting in the time of King Amanullah Khan [reigned 1919–1929]. When I was a student at the Industrial High School, Amanullah, the king at that time, came to the high school. He was leaving for Europe. He sat at our high school, and I painted a picture of him. Then he gave one hundred golden coins to his son, and his son gave me the coins as a gift. They gathered all the able boys from all over Kabul, and Faiz Mohammad, who was the minister of education, gave me the coins in the presence of the son of Amanullah. In 1933 I graduated from the school with the highest honors.

My father was the head of the Kabul Museum and also a good artist. After graduating from high school, I was employed as a teacher in the same school, but when my father got sick, the government hired me as my father’s deputy in the museum. This was in 1939.

Two years later I was again hired by the Industrial High School as a teacher and also as vice-principal. I taught theater and painting. Then the Ministry of Information and Culture of that time decided to establish a museum and a theater called the Educational Theater, and I was the founder of this organization.

Then, at the government’s request, I was sent to Kandahar to paint historical pictures of Afghanistan. At the same time I taught in the Ahmad Shah and Mirweis high schools in Kandahar. I painted about twenty pictures there. The present government of Afghanistan has collected my paintings from the Kandahar museum as well as some paintings from the home of the previous king of Afghanistan, Zaher Shah, and they have made a national gallery. Two rooms are of my paintings. Still I don’t know what they have done with my paintings since I left Kabul, if they are broken, or if they have been kept.

After three years I returned to Kabul. There they sent me to the museum of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. I worked there for three years and designed many postage stamps. For six years I worked in the Arg [royal palace, today the House of the People]. I taught King Zaher’s family, his children, and in addition I painted a portrait of his family.

Then I was transferred again to the Industrial High School as …

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