Art Assets is thrilled to host Shannon Galpin, founder of Mountain2Mountain, for the second salon in our 21 ’til 21 series. In addition to being the first woman to mountain bike across Afghanistan and one of National Geographic’s 2013 Adventurers of the Year, Shannon is working tirelessly to empower women and girls in conflict zones around the world. One of her tools for cultural transformation is art. Here she talks about one of her most recent projects, “Streets of Afghanistan.”
Originally published in Afghan Scene in February 2013.
“The very creation of art is in itself an act of optimism.” – Lana Wachowski
Photography is a powerful connector between cultures, but in Afghanistan often that photography is one sided. Mountain2Mountain believes that photography and art can bridge communities and cultures, so we created a collaboration between Afghan and Western photographers to challenge the perceptions of Afghanistan in the West – showing an exhibition that highlights the beauty and the spirit of the country and its people.
But, rather than a traditional gallery show, we produced these images larger than life to surround the viewer in the rolling green hills of Badakhshan and Bamyan and the faces of Afghans in a way that humanizes a country narrowly portrayed as a war zone in a the Western mainstream media.
This October we brought the exhibition to Afghanistan and set them up as a series of public art installations for Afghans in an effort to bring art to the streets and instill pride in the beauty of their own communities.
Public art isn’t just for New York, London, and Paris – if anything, public art is even more important in countries like Afghanistan, because the ongoing war is not the only story in Afghanistan; poverty, oppression, and lack of infrastructure are the canvas on which life occurs, and THAT story needs to be told as well. Photography can tell that story better than any other medium because there are no limits to its interpretation.
So why spend the money, and take the time and risks to do a public show without security and restrictions in public spaces and villages throughout Afghanistan? Because this is where art is most needed.
This country deserves to be exposed to beauty and art for the same reasons as everyone else. The world needs to see that a space for art is emerging in Afghanistan and to be reminded over and over and over that this is a country filled with amazing people living their lives against an incredibly difficult backdrop.
Learn more about Mountain2Mountain.
(Photo credit: Tony Di Zinno)