Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation of the many shades of hope

It is when a land is going through its darkest times that one needs to reflect on the hope and possibility that it still holds. Architect Anne Feenstra shares his album as a reminder.

by Anne FeenstraPublished on : Oct 21, 2021

A while ago in Amsterdam, I met up with Alette. She was born in Kabul in 1970. She was as shocked as the rest of the world, with the humanitarian drama unfolding in Afghanistan. She shared the anger I am feeling. My deep worries about my friends are mixed with nostalgia about better times, while I am trying to help them to get out. I also feel sad for the plight of the Afghan people, female and male, who are facing another difficult period ahead.

Perhaps while re-calibrating your thoughts over this photo feature, you will also realise we should all support Afghanistan’s people, the culture, the crafts. A beautiful land so rich in history and legacy is much more than the chaos of its present.

Seen through my eyes, this is a tiny sneak peek of what I experienced in the 7.5 years I was there. I cannot offer you Lapis Lazuli earrings, like I did to Alette, but I can offer you many different shades of blue. Infinite and free, solid or airy, brimming with timeless wisdom and depth.

An afternoon in the middle of the Wakhan corridor at 3000 m. altitude, Northeast Afghanistan | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
An afternoon in the middle of the Wakhan corridor at 3000 m. altitude, Northeast Afghanistan Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
A Kirgiz woman riding her horse for another 90 km. All the way down to Ishkashim just before the harsh winter starts | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
A Kirgiz woman riding her horse for another 90 km. All the way down to Ishkashim just before the harsh winter starts Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
The site supervisor (with the hat), a local boy and and mason-cum-mountaineer on top of the new NP gate house with Dancing Window, Qala-i-Panja, Wakhan | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
The site supervisor (with the hat), a local boy and and mason-cum-mountaineer on top of the new NP gate house with Dancing Window, Qala-i-Panja, Wakhan Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Working together with the Wakhi carpenters on the top of the world at 3000 m. altitude. The roof of the Visitor Centre of the N.P. has a fish-bone pattern of poplar planks and willow sticks | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
Working together with the Wakhi carpenters on the top of the world at 3000 m. altitude. The roof of the Visitor Centre of the N.P. has a fish-bone pattern of poplar planks and willow sticks Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
A stunningly beautiful pigeon house in a mud brick patterned tower, just South of Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
A stunningly beautiful pigeon house in a mud brick patterned tower, just South of Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
After shopping it is time to adjust the turban before going home, Pul-i-Chisti Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
After shopping it is time to adjust the turban before going home, Pul-i-Chisti Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Glazed brick lattice wall detail, Iranian University, Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
Glazed brick lattice wall detail, Iranian University, Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
One of the biggest challenges for the Taliban regime will be to ensure every Afghan will have enough food | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
One of the biggest challenges for the Taliban regime will be to ensure every Afghan will have enough food Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Rapid construction in the heart of Kabul took place between 2003 and 2013, and the city’s inhabitants grew by over 500 per cent | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
Rapid construction in the heart of Kabul took place between 2003 and 2013, and the city’s inhabitants grew by over 500 per cent Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
The cleaned areas of this mosque's dome are too slippery for the pigeons, Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
The cleaned areas of this mosque's dome are too slippery for the pigeons, Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Together with fashion designer Zolaykha we made these Chapan fabric interior walls for an office in Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
Together with fashion designer Zolaykha we made these Chapan fabric interior walls for an office in Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Women's Day 2008, Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
Women's Day 2008, Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
No, we do not have machines yet to clean up after the blizzard. On the way from Band-i Amir to Bamyan | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
No, we do not have machines yet to clean up after the blizzard. On the way from Band-i Amir to Bamyan Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
An unfolding terrorist attack closeby resulted in a bullet hole in one solar panel on the top of our house, Kabul | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
An unfolding terrorist attack closeby resulted in a bullet hole in one solar panel on the top of our house, Kabul Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
On our way in the biting cold between Bamyan and Ghorband, Central Highlands | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
On our way in the biting cold between Bamyan and Ghorband, Central Highlands Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Saw the man having a cup of tea at the deep blue blue Band-e-Haibat lake. I captured this image from the roof of a historic shrine on a summer day without wind | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
Saw the man having a cup of tea at the deep blue Band-e-Haibat lake. I captured this image from the roof of a historic shrine on a summer day without wind Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
The stunning pristine water of the shallow Band-i-Paneer lake is a great place for small fish to grow up | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
The stunning pristine water of the shallow Band-i-Paneer lake is a great place for small fish to grow up Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
An architect and ranger looking at the massive slab of travertine formed between Paneer lake and Haibat lake | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
An architect and ranger looking at the massive slab of travertine formed between Paneer lake and Haibat lake Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
An educated Afghan woman who worked passionately on finding ways to highlight the stunning beauty of Bamyan province. It is no coincidence that the first National Park of the country was made here in Bamyan | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
An educated Afghan woman who worked passionately on finding ways to highlight the stunning beauty of Bamyan province. It is no coincidence that the first National Park of the country was made here in Bamyan Image: Prof. Anne Feenstra
Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands

If one were to observe Afghanistan through the stories in the photographs above, one would note that each picture paints the proverbial wisdom of the ancient land. The people, their resilience and way of life references the age-old adages of Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands, which embody beliefs that have withstood the test of time and turmoil...

kAbul bE zar bAsh bE barf nE<br>[may Kabul be without gold rather than without snow] | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
kAbul bE zar bAsh bE barf nE
[may Kabul be without gold rather than without snow]

Every winter, fresh blankets of snow cover the rugged Afghan mountains and highlands. Once this melts in the spring, it forms the cradle of life. Water to drink, irrigation water for vegetables, fruits, nuts, saffron etc. Aquifers get replenished and micro-hydro-power can be generated. As long as this system flourishes, there will be enough food for everybody, irrespective of what goes on in the parliamentary quarters.

panj angusht brAdar as barAbar nEs<br>[five fingers are brothers but not equals] | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
panj angusht brAdar as barAbar nEs
[five fingers are brothers but not equals]

Although people may be related by nationality, each person is, nevertheless, different. This mix of minds and cultures has always existed through a tumultuous past and the influx of many cultures. Yet, is it not perhaps the unity of its people, the strength of togetherness which makes Afghanistan such a rich melting pot of ethnicities; the nomadic Kutchies, the Hazaras, the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, the Pashtuns, the Aimak, the Wakhis, the Nuristanis, the Turkmen, the Baluch and many more.

sadA az yak dest na-mEbrAya<br>[you can't clap with one hand] | Afghanistan Blues: a photo contemplation in Snow Gold, Five Fingers and Two Hands | STIRworld
sadA az yak dest na-mEbrAya
[you can't clap with one hand]

From 1933 onwards, the country experienced 45 peaceful years in which women started to carve out a greater role for themselves. Afghan men and how they behave towards their daughters, wives and mothers, is crucially important in this process of creating a more balanced society. In the same way that a bird cannot fly with one wing, it is going to be very difficult for Afghanistan, if women are left out (again) by the Taliban.

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