Afghan-inspired artwork on display in Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO, Vermont (WCAX) – It has been a year since the United States withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban took power. For many Afghans, it is a day marked by trauma, anger and fear.

The Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan just weeks before the planned US military withdrawal sparked panic so intense that thousands of Afghans stormed Kabul airport in a desperate attempt to flee their country.

For the Taliban, it is a day of joy. Hundreds of people gathered just yards from where the US Embassy once stood chanting God is great.

About 100 Afghan refugees now call Brattleboro home. This includes members of the Art Lords, a group of artists whose works appeared throughout Afghanistan. But not anymore. However, all is not lost.

One of the first things the Taliban did when they took over the country was get rid of all public art. Now some of that art is replicated in Vermont.

“They have all been repainted or we can say whitewashed,” said Art Lords member Abdullah.

We do not use Abdullah’s last name for his personal security. But in some ways it is already well known. The murals he helped create were once painted on war-torn walls across Afghanistan.

The art at home was destroyed but he lives in Brattleboro.

“It will be a reminder to all the people or the American government that our people are still not safe. They are barely surviving,” Abdullah said.

At various locations around town, alongside images of the original murals, are new temporary murals created in collaboration with Rhode Island Band Arts.

“The community has really stepped up to welcome these people,” said Kirsten Martsi of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center helped coordinate the project. Officials hope the art will inspire more collaboration.

“Give them space to bring a piece of their culture, history and work to their new home,” Martsi said.

Zuhra is also a member of the Art Lords. Abdullah helped me understand what art means to her.

“Whatever is happening in society, we can express our ideas, our thoughts through art for social justice,” Zuhra said.

Now people in Vermont are sharing this message, despite the fact that it was originally intended for a different audience.

“Such a great opportunity for Brattleboro to welcome Afghan refugees here. And letting them celebrate and recreate their art that was destroyed by the Taliban is even more amazing,” said Emily Wagner of Brattleboro.

In all, there are 17 coins around the city. Two more permanent murals are in the works.

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