Khaled Hosseini, author of
The Kite Runner

This collection of interviews explores the experiences of Afghan American artists residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. As part of the California Story Fund initiative, these narratives explore the history of Afghans in California through the voices of contemporary writers, artists and cultural curators. Interviewees include Khaled Hosseini author of The Kite Runner, a current New York Times Best Seller and founder of the Afghan National Gallery, Youssef Kohzad.

At 60,000 strong, the Afghan diaspora in Northern California represents the largest Afghan community outside of Asia. Many of the members of this community have recently fled war-torn Afghanistan and have sought asylum in the U.S. Evidence of the emergence of Afghan Americans in the West is supported by the unofficial naming of Fremont California — home to the largest segment of Afghan Americans in the Bay Area's "Little Kabul."

The community draws its roots to the late 1970s and early 1980s when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, launching what would turn out to be one of the longest, bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century. Fleeing the civil war, many Afghans came to settle in the United States as refugees. Immigration continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

During the past twenty-five years, civil and proxy war has decimated Afghan art and culture. After the Mujahideen takeover of Kabul in the early 1990s, the Afghan National Museum, which housed the most diverse collection of ancient artwork in Afghanistan, was plundered. An estimated 92 percent of the National Gallery's collection has been destroyed and looted. Contemporary art pieces were in danger of decimation. The National Contemporary Museum of Modern Art in Kabul, holding over 700 art pieces with some dating back over 100 years, was pillaged. Upon taking power in 1996, the Taleban banned all forms of art in Afghanistan, including music, visual arts and dance, and many artists were forced to work in secret, if at all. Still more of Afghanistan's artists had no choice but to practice their art in exile.

Over the last decade, a florescence of Afghan art has occurred in the Afghan community in Northern California. Half a dozen of the most significant Afghan artists and writers now reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the past five years, numerous Afghan American art exhibits have highlighted the longstanding achievements of older artists, as well as the emergence of a new, second-generation form of expression. This project acknowledges the important role of California as the site of the complicated cultural reconstruction and artistic representation of refugee communities.

Oral History Interviews [Transcripts not yet available]

Farhad Azad
Interviewer: Brendan Furey

Farhad Azad was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and moved to the US at a young age. In 1997, Azad created to bring awareness to the arts and culture of the Afghan people. Along with publishing, he is actively involved in promoting the work of Afghan artists, writers and musicians.

Khaled Hosseini
Interviewer: Brendan Furey

Born in Kabul, his family moved to Paris in 1976, where his father worked at a diplomatic post. Though scheduled to return to Afghanistan in 1980, the family was wary of the impact of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and requested political asylum in the United States. He attended Santa Clara University and graduated from the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, in 1993 and has since worked as an internist.

His first novel, The Kite Runner, is the story of a young boy, Amir, juggling to establish a closer rapport with his father and coping from a haunting childhood event that would redefine the rest of his life. Set in Afghanistan from the fall of the monarchy until the collapse of the Taliban regime to the immigrant haven of California's Bay Area. The novel was published in 2003.

His next novel about Afghanistan, "Dreaming In Titanic City" will be published by Riverhead Books in thse summer of 2006.

Bizmillah Iqbal
Interviewer: Brendan Furey

Born in Kabul in the early seventies, Iqbal left Afghanistan as a refugee after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Growing up in Philadelphia, he developed an interest in art at an early age, first working in pen and ink as well as spray paint art. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in the nineties, Iqbal enrolled in the San Francisco Academy of Art. focusing on both painting and digital media. His work has been presented in several exhibitions in northern California.

  Youssef Kohzad
Interviewer: Brendan Furey

Youssef Kohzad was born in 1935 in Kabul, Afghanistan. During his high school years, he wrote plays and created artwork for Kabul Theater. Kohzad graduated from Nejat (Amani) High School in Kabul in 1953. He finished his formal art education from the Academy of Art in Rome, Italy in 1965. After returning from Italy, he traveled to the former Soviet Union, India and former Eastern Germany to exhibit his art along with other contemporary Afghan artists. Many of his works are showcased in the Middle Eastern Studies museums in Moscow.

From 1966-1969 he held executive positions at the Ministry of Media and Culture, in which he was the head of the Fine Arts Department. In 1971 he became the artistic consultant of Kabul Theater. He wrote eight dramas and all were played on stage. In many of the plays, he played the lead role. In 1975 he returned to the Ministry of Media and Culture and held the position as the president of the ministry until 1992. In 1976, he founded the National Gallery in Kabul, which included 700 paintings, and some work dating back a hundred years. Unfortunately, out of the 700 works of art only 30 remain today. From 1992 until August 2000, Kohzad became a refugee along with his family and was forced to immigrate to India. In August 2000, he moved to the US and has been residing in Northern California since then. His first art exhibit in the US was held in August 2001 in Palo Alto.

Along with painting, Kohzad is also an accomplished poet, short story writer and novelist. He has published three books: Aspects of Beauty in Art; Kohzad: A Collection of Poetry; and a novel When God Created Beauty.




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