فرهنگ مسروریت و شادی در افغانستان

Practices, Prohibition and Subversion in Afghanistan 1957–2022


Max Klimburg, Nasgol Afshar, Sewida Eyssa Zada, Zarghona Hossaini, Mozhgan Hossinzade, Razia Hossinzade, Masooma Hussaini, Shalma Safi, Zainab Qurbani

19/08 – 03/09/2022 


curated by Christiane Kalantari, Elisabeth Kapeller
co-curators: Tamana Niazi, Alexandra Pruscha

Opening: Thursday, 18/08/2022, 7 pm

Finissage: Saturday, 03/09,2022, 5 pm

Venue: philomena+ project room, front garden, Heinestraße 40, 1020 Vienna

Image left: Max Klimburg, Teahouse in Baklh, 1957, analogue photography (detail) © the photographer, Image right: Mozhgan Hossinzade, Picnic in Vienna, 2022, digital photography (detail) © the artist

The photo exhibition CULTURES OF PLEASURE  فرهنگ مسروریت و شادی invites you to a multifaceted search for traces through the recent past and present of Afghanistan and illuminates “cultures of joy and vitality” from the perspective of the Afghanistan expert, ethnologist and photographer Max Klimburg and a group of Afghan women, who have recently installed in Vienna, including Nasgol Afshar, Sewida Eyssa Zada, Zarghona Hossaini, Mozhgan Hossinzade, Razia Hossinzade, Masooma Hussaini, Shalma Safi and Zainab Qurbani.

Cultures of pleasure – today hardly to be associated with numerous Islamic countries – traditionally manifest in feasts, singing and dancing, in colorful, vibrant clothing and jewellery, picnicking in flower gardens and in parks, in visits to often richly decorated teahouses, in games, kite flying, animal and other competitions, wrestling, as well as in sensual and uplifting spiritual experiences at Islamic shrines.

All these traditions – associated with an abundance of positive, often passionate emotions of joy, satisfaction and happiness – are currently under heavy pressure after the renewed takeover by the Taliban with their extreme patriarchal-hierarchical and religious concepts. ‘Joie de vivre’ is therefore once again suppressed in Afghanistan by denial, concealment, prohibition and danger.

Some of Max Klimburg’s visual documents from 1956-1961 and early 1970s are presented for the first time. The historical photographies are juxtaposed with those illustrating authentic moods, living spaces and artistic positions of a new generation of Afghan women and civil rights activists in Vienna.  Nasgol Afshar, Sewida Eyssa Zada, Zarghona Hossaini, Mozhgan Hossinzade, Razia Hossinzade, Masooma Hussaini, Shalma Safi, Zainab Qurbani open up unexpected views on often contrasting perspectives. The current political situation in Afghanistan means that those modes of vitality, joy and public spheres are increasingly pushed into subversive and digital spaces.


(*1932 in Jakarta) lives in Vienna, Lecturer in Art History and Cultural Anthropology at the Universities of Vienna, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Kabul, numerous research and guided study trips in Afghanistan, Iran, North Pakistan and Central Asia (Silk Road); many years of field research in the Hindu Kush (financed by the German Research Foundation - DFG); exhibition design of the ethnographic part of the Afghan National Museum in Kabul in 2005. Vice President of the Austria-Afghanistan Society, in this function head of development aid and infrastructure projects. Main publications: The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush. Art and Society of the Waigal and Ashkun Kafirs. 2 Bde. Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1999; Afghanistan. Das Land im historischen Spannungsfeld Mittelasiens. Wien 1966; Legende Afghanistan (zusammen mit Karl Flinker). Köln 1959 (Bildband mit ca. 160 Abbildungen).

MOZHGAN HOSSINZADE ( (photography)

(*1999 in Herat) lived there until her flight in 2020, where she left her son for a year in Greece, because of the danger on the escape. Today, thanks to a family reunion, Mozhgan Hossinzade lives with her son in Vienna. Mozhgan Hossinzade associated her life in Afghanistan with great pressure and discrimination due to her forced marriage at the age of 13. Now she stands up for women's and children's rights and lives emancipated as a single woman*. Her family worked in the theatre in Afghanistan and she was also able to spend many hours in acting and stage design as a teenager. As a performing photo artist*, she will show her talent and enthusiasm for art in the exhibition "Culture of the Joy of Living". The expressive photo representations of her are influenced by the traditional acting art of Afghanistan, which she learned to love as a child.

NASGOL AFSHAR ( (photography)

(*1992 in Kabul) Nasgol Afshar fled with her father from Afghanistan to Iran as a small child and grew up there with him and her stepmother. The denial of her schooling and much more deeply offended her in her childhood. In her marriage, Nasgol Afshar had to struggle to make ends meet despite the violence in her daily life at the hands of her ex-husband. Since living alone in Austria with her three children, Nasgol Afshar has been searching for herself. Her photographic representations are to be seen in the context of her seclusion from Afghan society, as she would not be able to witness how multifaceted life in Afghanistan could have been. That is why Nasgol Afshar ays, "Now I experience Afghan traditions and I want to share them. This makes me independent and a part of society. It makes me feel alive." By being visible in public and participating in society, Nasgol Afshar feels empowered. The deep expression Nasgol Afshar shows in her photographic works suggests that the moments of photography in her make the shadows of her past fade away.


(*1982 in Kabul) Zarghona Hossaini had to bear great burdens with her five children in Afghanistan. Dramas of domestic violence came to bear repeatedly and paralyzed life. Despite great tasks, Zarghona Hossaini was able to detach herself from all the burdens and build her own life with her now almost grown-up children in Austria. The focus for Zarghona Hossaini is her path as a single mother of five, who became a strong fighter* for women* and peace issues. That is why today she stands for more independence, for freedom and emancipation.

MASOOMA HUSSAINI (photography)

(*1985 in Mzar) For Masooma Hussaini, weaving carpets was not only her way of showing enthusiasm for the beauty of traditional Afghan weaving, it was also a refuge from everyday life. She comes from a conservative Afghan family that did not tolerate her wanting to educate herself as a woman*. But Masooma Hussaini, who was very determined as a child, had her parents proven wrong and learned to write and read on her own drive. The control and regulation of her life by the state and family in Iran and the constant need to conform had left its mark on her. Masooma Hussaini always wanted to feel independent in life.
The exhibition leaves Masooma Hussaini with an irretrievable desire to take a trip to Afghanistan to her past. She gets involved in this journey to Afghan traditions and won't let herself be dissuaded from participating in the exhibition for anything in the world. Life in Afghanistan held no happiness. But now she recognizes the diversity and is inspired. She feels carried and it leaves a remarkable message in her life. Namely, to have arrived gratefully in Afghanistan. Masooma Hussaini through her illustrations, enigmatically leaves her thoughts without expressing them. And the scope of her connection to herself in this world is reflected as the face of being an uprooted human being.


(*1979 in Parwan) Sewida Eyssa Zada comes from an educated family and she wanted to make an equally educated difference in Afghanistan. She studied teaching and trained as a midwife. Then she had to get married and her life shattered. Listlessness and trauma tore apart her inner bliss and she felt doomed to failure. When she met feminist colleagues* in Austria, it helped her to perceive solid ground beneath her and she set levers in motion to determine her own life. Now she is happy and grateful in Austria to bring traditions of joie de vivre to others. Her life was numbing under the influence of her destiny, but because of that nothing is more impressive for Sewida Eyssa Zada than to feel herself. Feel just like Sewida Eyssa Zada the Afghan tradition, when Sewida Eyssa Zada takes care of the cuisine and take her view on life!


(*1989 in Herat) As a child, Razia Hossinzade was forbidden to go to school after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. Only a few years later, she also had many problems with her leg, which was getting longer and longer due to a disability that occurred due to complications at birth. Her parents forbade her from education and she did not stay longer in the madrasa that she could still attend during the occupation. The frustration because of the lack of education and the horror of the war made her flee in 2012. She married an Afghan living in Austria and settled in Austria. Dealing with plants came naturally to her. As a child, she played in a garden with a river running through it. She still remembers how beautiful she had it there and helped her mother to wash the laundry in the flowing water. For Razia Hossinzade, planting means freedom to develop. She puts life into it, which builds a bridge to her origins. The small garden of the exhibition has the meaning for her to create a connecting link between Afghanistan and herself. She feels gratitude for it, because it is a help to communicate without feeling sad.

SHAMLA SAFI (dance performance, cuisine)

(*1989 in Murdyan) After her husband fled Afghanistan, Shamla Safi's life was complicated as she remained behind with her three children. This resulted in many consequences. When she stepped out on the street as a single mother, the public put her on alert, as any slightest carelessness could mean incitement for her. Her parents were always worried because she lived as a single woman* and she did not let her children go to school, despite being an educator herself. The fear of attacks, on ethnic grounds was too great for Shamla Safi. Many families from Afghanistan who belong to a minority group experience such a tragic event. Life in Afghanistan offered Shamla Safi equally beautiful sides. The excellent cuisine of the region in which Shamla Safi grew up has a particularly excellent reputation. Cooks from Murdyan are known for their pasta and for the excellent preparation of the national dish Qarbuli Palau. At the opening of the Cultures of Pleasure exhibition, Shamla Safi performed the Sema dance, a spiritual dance traditionally danced by men (mystics and Sufis). Now adapted by women*, it is considered a sign of freedom.


(*1995 in Herat) is a great spokesperson* for the Afghan diaspora in Austria. She had tragic experiences when she was forced to get married as a 13-year-old girl. Through this she wants to stand by women* from Afghanistan today. She is committed to improving educational opportunities for girls and women* in Afghanistan. The doubt about her own readiness for motherhood at the age of 14 was the reason for her to take up the topics of education and equal opportunities for women* from educationally weak areas. With the garden art Zainab Qurbani now sets a sign for more educational equality, because education also creates life. Education is the key to more happiness and freedom. Sharing experiences while planting is relevant to Zainab Qurbani and expresses her enthusiasm for her goals of feminism.


(*1968 in Vienna) is an art historian and senior researcher at the Institute of Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, focusing on interdisciplinary studies of the art and cultural history of Western Tibet, South and Central Asia; material culture and transmediality in pre-modern times; images of the feminine in early Western Tibetan Buddhist art; knowledge transfer and cultural mobility between Asia and Europe 1600-1900. Publications: ORCID ID: 0000-0001-6576-9716


(*1989 in Klagenfurt) As an artist*, Elisabeth works on unique painted wooden bags, which she makes in collaboration with her father, who is a carpenter. Her studies in philosophy with a focus on aesthetics, gender studies and cultural and art studies (diss.) at the University of Applied Arts let her find the traces of her creativity, in the search for more liveliness. Together with eight women* she founded WILPF Austria, a section of the oldest women* and peace league worldwide. Her feminist approach to art is also crucial in encouraging artists with a migration background to project their concerns in the public sphere. For this purpose, she accompanies women* from Afghanistan on their way to arrive in public life.

TAMANA NIAZI (co-curator)

(*1992 in Kabul) Tamana Niazi lives in Vienna and is co-curator of the exhibition "Kultur der Lebensfreude". She studied law and political science at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan. After her personal flight experience to Austria in 2015, she developed a strong interest in women's and peace discourse, as well as migration and asylum policy. That's why she studied international development at the University of Vienna and got involved in the international Women*league for Peace and Freedom (WILPF Austria). An empowerment project at the Vienna Intervention Center against Violence in the Family gave Tamana Niazi the opportunity to empower Afghan women* in the areas of health, education and protection against violence and to involve them in the political discourse in the long term.


(*1964 in Katmandu) studied textile art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, (1986 master class for tapestry). 1990 exchange program with the Austrian Cultural Institute, New York, USA; 1994 - 1995 research fellowship at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, India, where she also taught and ran her own workshop; since 2016 she has been working between Austria and India (Gujarat, Thar Desert). Her artistic practice is deeply rooted in the oriental tradition, placing the fabrics in a completely new context that relates to abstract art and its tradition of interpretation in the Western world. Numerous exhibitions in Austria, India, Turkey, China, USA, Italy and Russia. https://www.alexandrapruscha.com/.

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