Archive for January, 2011

Proverbs and Poems from Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFGHN-10225 Jalalabad 

If literacy rates were measured by a nation’s proverbs and poetry, Afghanistan would be one of the most literate countries on earth.  These two forms of the oral tradition have been embraced for centuries and reveal the heart and soul of the Afghan people.

AFGHN-10122Bamiyan

Proverbs are part of every culture and have been for thousands of years.  Francis Bacon said that the wit, genius, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.  Here are some common Afghan proverbs which provide unique insights into the ancient culture.

AFGHN-12369Maimana

There is a path to even the tallest mountain.

AFGHN-10010NFHindu Kush Mountains 

The mountains are our people.

AFGHN-12819 The harsh land is integral to this nomadic herder culture with deep roots in high pastures. “Koh-o mar-domon moya,” a saying goes: “The mountains are our people.” Qala-e Sabzi.

A warm fire is better than a delicious meal.

AFGHN-10124-(1)Refugees return to their bombed out neighborhood in Herat

If there is only bread and onions, still have a happy face.

AFGHN-12441Kabul

In a ditch where water has flowed, it will flow again.

AFGHN-12258Irrigation channel, Kandahar 

Many drops make a river.

AFGHN-10064NFBetween Sarobi and Kabul 

A real friend is one who takes the hand of his friend in times of distress and helplessness.

AFGHN-12448nsKabul

AFGHN-10118Kandahar

Not even the five fingers of our hands are alike.

AFGHN-10090Textile Dyer, Kabul

There is blessing in action.

AFGHN-10146Bakery run by Afghan widows

AFGHN-12998Brick Workers, Bamiyan Province

First a friend then a brother.

AFGHN-12942Herat 

POETRY

In Afghanistan, the tradition of poetry writing and recitation dates back a thousand years.  To lend credibility to an argument, the preface,  “The poet says…”   denies the listener the opportunity to disagree.  Although many do not read or write, they can recite long passages of both classic and modern poetry.

AFGHN-10089

If leadership rests inside the lion’s jaw,
So be it. Go snatch it from his jaws.
Your lot shall be greatness, prestige, honor and glory.
If all fails, face death like a man.

Hanzala of Badghis – 9th century poet


AFGHN-10252NF
Wounded Afghan fighter outside of Jalalabad

Kabul

Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her,  for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I-Mastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs

And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls …

 – Saib-e-Tabrizi, 17th century poet 

AFGHN-10149Kabul

AFGHN-10130 Nomads at prayer at sunrise

Earth

The earth opens her warm arms
to embrace me
The earth is my mother
She understands the sorrow
of my wandering

My wandering
is an old crow
that conquers
the very top of an aspen
a thousand times a day

Perhaps life is a crow
that each dawn
dips its blackened beak
in the holy well of the sun

Perhaps life is the grief-stricken earth
who has opened up her bloodied arms to me

And here I give thanks
on the brink of ‘victory’

-  Partaw Naderi

July, 2002 

Only the Educated are Free

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by stevemccurry
I’ve been working in Afghanistan for thirty years.  I covered the Russian invasion and withdrawal, the civil wars, the rise and fall of the Taliban.
AFGHN-10260-(1)  Mujahadeen Fighters, Nuristan, 1979
 
It seems that each time I return, control of a province or a city  has changed hands.  It was working in Afghanistan which taught me a lot about being a photographer.
BIO-10118Afghanistan, 1979
 
 
War and turmoil are a way of life in Afghanistan. One thing that is guaranteed, Afghanistan will endure anything and everything. The people who murmur Inshallah (God willing) don’t bet on tomorrow, but strive each day to survive and take care of their families.
AFGHN-12996
Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2007
 A Hazara boy has transformed old car tires into buckets.
 After working in the Bamiyan province and seeing the dire stuation of the Hazara people,  I founded ImagineAsia to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help provide educational resources for students at all levels, from elementary schools to high schools and universities.
We are happy and proud to welcome Freshta, a  young Afghan student from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, who has received a full scholarship from Goucher College in Maryland.  ImagineAsia worked with the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund.  Our joint efforts were successful in  bringing her here to study pre-med.
Freshta, Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C.
January, 2011
 
  
 
Ali Aqa lives in Bamiyan Province near Band-e-Amir. His family is poor, his clothes used, but this 15-year-old  isn’t deterred:  He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan.
“They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.  After seeing my picture of him in the National Geographic article on the Hazaras, many people wrote to me who would like to help him.  ImagineAsia is working to ensure that he also receives a college education.
AFGHN-12818Ali Aqa, Bamiyan Province
“The Hazaras are producing the most enthusiastic, educated, forward-looking youth, who are seizing the opportunities provided by the new situation.”
- Michael Semple, Deputy to the European Union special representative to Afghanistan in 2004 – 2007.
 
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/afghanistan-hazara/mccurry-photography.html
“We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.”  –  Epictetus

La Habana Vieja

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by stevemccurry

CUBA-10018 A World Heritage Site since 1982, Old Havana is a fascinating mix of Baroque, neoclassical monuments, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco architecture  interspersed with private homes decorated with balconies, wrought-iron gates, and  inside courtyards.

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Havana was founded in 1519 by the Spanish, and  became an important harbor for Spanish galleons as they plied the seas  from the Old World to the New World.

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The city suffered little damage in the country’s wars and revolutions, and stands today much as it was built 100 years ago except for  decay and neglect combined with damage from the degenerative effects of the tropical salt-air climate.  Hurricane Ike battered Havana in 2008 which caused extensive damage to some of the colonial buildings.

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Cuba was a major importer of American cars until the Revolution in 1959, when many wealthy Cubans left the country and their cars behind.  To keep these ancient cars running for fifty years requires loving care and skill that would be difficult to find anywhere else.

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_SM15545, Havana, Cuba, 2010, CUBA-10020

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Eusebio  Leal, the city’s historian, has played a major role in preservation activities in Old  Havana. In 1994, Leal created Habaguanex,  a joint venture-for-profit-firm.  It operates by generating hard currency through tourism and related services in Habana Vieja and then uses these funds for historic preservation and the development of community projects.

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I was in Cuba for only a week in 2010, and am looking forward to going back to capture many more people and places.

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