Reflections on art, fitness, family, politics and literature that hit me like bricks as I chauffeur my children from place to place...
A pink taxi
September 11, 2010
Looking for Zalmai
One day, in 2004, I looked up, near the entrance of the Geneva apartment and noticed a poster. These posters, hung on street lights often advertise cultural events. This poster was Very colorful and it said: Retour en Afghanistan. The photograph of refugees dressed in bright colors, traversing the snow, was signed with a single name: Zalmai.
My eldest brother who was visiting Geneva accompanied me to the opening. We discovered the panoramic size photograph of the refugees, many vivid portraits, other panoramics of the empty niches of buddha of Bamyan, bricklayers as well. It was all evident that the Afghan photographer was talented and very enthusiastic about his return from exile. He had lived in Lausanne, Switzerland and he was sponsored by UNHCR.
We had to meet him! When we introduced ourselves, he hesitated. He had met a Lebanese guy on the plane from Kabul, whose brother-in-law was Afghan. It was our younger brother-photographer. Indeed, the latter confirmed that he had gotten a few tips from the professional photo journalist.
The Afghan world is small and it was a year later that my husband facilitated the exhibition of Zalmai's photographs in Dubai. I met my closest friend there: an Afghan princess in all senses of the term. I also chose three of the panoramics for our collection. I knew we were acquiring a part of our heritage. Zalmai's photos are the post war relics as Roland and Sabrina Michaud photos are pre war mementos.
We got more acquainted with Zalmai. I must say that while he may be Westernized and almost fashionable, he retains that formality that is an obligation between an Afghan man and a woman. With me he exchanged a few French words (we also had Switzerland in common). Last time I saw him, he was on his way to a new project in Afghanistan in 2005. This time he was photographing the opium cultivators, traders and addicts. I have followed his work in the press. He says that he only does black and white because his vision of his world is bleak.
He has forgotten the three photographs that we live with. The one of the brick layers and the one of the Buddha-less Bamyan may be brownish and covered with clouds of dust, but the one of the refugees marching in the snow in their brilliantly covered clothing is certainly a color photograph. 2004 was a hopeful year for him because he returned to his homeland. For Afghanistan, it was the period of optimistic reconstruction. I often remember the view of that poster, hung in the streets of Geneva.
We have not seen Zalmai in a long time. He retains that out-of-reach characteristic while he works that gives him a certain aura.
The pink taxi runs from 7 am to 7pm. It picks and drops off my 3 kids at school, ballet,judo, aikido, violin, climbing, riding, squash, basketball, skiing, skating, swim team, friends, grandparents and teachers. The car, not pink, but a black SUV, drives to Carrefour and Coop. To Club stretch for pilates and Aviation club for weekly workouts. It is driven by a woman who navigates on the radio, gets DJed by her 4 year old or sometimes quietly reflects. The thoughts are about politics, family, humor, literature, art or fitness. Sometimes they are excruciatingly longwinded, other times they are gossipy and hot.
I hope you will all enjoy!