Afghanistan Culture and Traditions


The cultural history of Afghanistan boasts millennial origins and, above all thanks to the particular position of this land, a crossroads of peoples and experiences in continuous movement, since ancient times it has been configured as the result of different traditions and sediment, from time to time, of elements of the Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Indian etc. world. The hegemony of Islam was inserted into this mosaic, whose influence over time determined the ways, characteristics, productions – not only cultural – of the life of the country and its residents. If the Moghūl domination should be remembered as one of the highest periods for Afghan art and culture, in recent times the same intensity has characterized moments of a completely different nature: the Taliban regime in fact coincided with a profound process of cultural drying up and dismantling of the country and the territory, also implemented through the destruction of part of the country’s artistic heritage. In fact, these fundamentalist groups are responsible for the demolition of the two Buddha statues present in the archaeological site of Bamiyan (March 2001, the hypothesis of a reconstruction or an open-air museum that remains in memory of the destruction is not excluded) and of many works and rooms in the Kābul Museum. The rediscovery and enhancement of this formidable legacy is however one of the many challenges that await Afghanistan on its path towards modernity: some encouraging signs have come, for example, from the reopening in recent years of some faculties of the University of Kābul and from the birth of new newspapers. Starting in 2003, the publication of Khaled Hosseini’s books has contributed significantly to spreading and raising awareness among the international public about the recent history and culture of Afghanistan., a young author born and raised in Kābul before moving with his family to Paris and then to the United States, whose novels have been successful all over the world. Hindered by war events or forbidden by the Taliban like any other form of entertainment, even the cinematographic activity is slowly trying to be reborn. Developed since the 1960s, Afghan cinema, whose archives have been decimated but not totally destroyed by the fundamentalists, today counts, among the most interesting authors, Siddiq Barmak (b.1962), author of Osama (2003), set precisely in the Taliban “regime” Afghanistan, and Atiq Rahimi (b. 1962), Franco-Afghan director, who directed Earth and Ashes (2004). The victory, for both, of a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival contributes to testifying the value of these works. In Afghanistan there are also two sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List: Jam Minaret and Archaeological Remains (2002) and Bamiyan Valley Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains (2003). Visit for Asia morphological features.


The Koranic prescriptions, although interpreted in different ways and severities according to the periods and powers of government, have had and still have a decisive influence on the customs of the Afghan people. Nonetheless, even in this panorama, which is also common to many states in Asia, the Afghan people, after the painful Taliban parenthesis, have timidly begun to savor glimpses of social life, new habits and activities that have been forbidden for a long time. If the sense of hospitality has remained a constant feature of the way of life of the Afghan population (and much of the Islamic world), arts such as music, both traditionally played with “classical” instruments and the more modern one influenced by Western pop, are starting to spread again. Especially the younger generations are dedicated to activities such as photography or sports. One of the traditional activities is the bustling and ancient buzkashi, played with a goat carcass.


Art in Afghanistan is produced by the confluence of different currents, participants in that fundamental Indo-Iranian component that from remote times marked the contacts between the two civilizations (in the Afghan sites of Mundigak and Kandahār already from the fourth millennium BC affinities are testified evident with the Indus and Iranian civilizations), with a more evident continuity from the century. Street. C. to the sec. VIII d. C. On the itinerary of the monastic centers of Buddhism and along the caravan routes (Begram) the most unexpected encounters between aesthetic traditions and iconographic formulas of different origins took place, giving rise to stylistic combinations such as the Greco-Buddhist one (2nd century BC, the result of Hellenistic and Iranian-Parthian influences) and the Iranian-Buddhist one flourished in Bamiyan, later underlined by a Sassanid-Gupta current (5th-7th century AD; see Fundukistan). Still from the Iranian cultural bed, but with other aesthetic interests, will depend on the art of the Gasnavids (X-XII century AD) and of the Gorids (mid-12th century-early XIII century AD), immediate background to the Seljuk art and the background of the Indomusal one. Of the former are the remains of the sultanial palaces of Lashkari Bazār (with Central Asian style murals) and of Ghazni (the ancient Ghaznā, with remains of marble wall coverings of the finest elegance), in addition to the magnificent star-shaped minarets of Mas’ud III and Bahrām Shāh, also in Ghazni. To the latter belongs the beautiful cylindrical minaret of Jam, in the mountains of Ghor, immediate prototype, together with the previous ones, of Quṭb Minār of Delhi. Islamic art, which, owing to that underlying religious determinism that distinguishes it, had found congenial elements in Roman, Byzantine and Coptic art, ends in Afghanistan with the splendid flowering of the Timurid civilization (15th century), which will have one of its major centers in Herat. The sec. XX was characterized as a period of rediscovery of works, thanks to archaeological research and recovery and restoration policies implemented by the government (between the fifties and seventies of the twentieth century), before the obscurantism of the fundamentalist regimes halted all artistic development and evolution and persisted in trying to eliminate every work not only in presumed contrast with Islamic doctrine but as an expression tout cour of a “culture”, as a synonym of history, traditions, values, practices and knowledge.

Afghanistan Culture and Traditions