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Christa Assad

Where There Was Fire Ashes Remain

/ Donde Hubo Fuego Cenizas Quedan

 

On View
April 20 - June 1, 2023

¨As a visual artist who spends the bulk of her time in the solitary safety of her private art studio, surrounded by paints and clay, I have little to do with what’s going on in warring nations several continents away. But abiding by laws of six degrees of separation, right here in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico, I met award-winning journalist and filmmaker, Jason Motlagh — and through him, Iranian-Canadian photographer Kiana Hayeri. Kiana, who has lived and worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, for the last eight years, writes:


 

´When the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, women were among the most profoundly affected. While the end of fighting offered a welcome respite, particularly for women in rural areas, others’ lives have been severely constricted. Many watched 20 years of gains made under Western occupation unravel as the new government issued edict after edict scrubbing women from public life.´

Exhibition Details

Christa Assad

Where there was Fire Ashes Remain / Donde Hubo Fuego Cenizas Quedan

April 20 - June 1, 2023

Gallery

120 Heroico Colegio Militar

Todos Santos, Baja California Sur

Mexico

Assad Exhibition
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¨These life-changing connections mobilized a powerful force within me. My activism is unleashed through my artwork. The paintings in this newest series of feminist artworks protesting patriarchal supremacy are based on the photographic images captured in Afghanistan by Kiana — a woman infiltrating a male-dominated society and telling the stories of women imprisoned both metaphorically and literally. I hope to visually portray the emotion of these stories through my choice of color and composition, using the grain of the plywood as an underlying abstraction not unlike the waves of reality.¨ - Christa Assad
 

Disruptus,
acrylic on plywood panels, 193 x 127 cm overall,
$7500 (unframed)

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About Afghanistan

In August of 2021, the United States completed one of the largest air-evacuations in history, removing all of their armed forces, American citizens, and selected Afghans from the devastated county of Afghanistan. After more than twenty years of war, the Taliban once again seized power and began their tyrannical reign, effectively turning back the clock decades to a past era of gender apartheid.

Taking immediate action to dominate and subordinate the female strata of the population, the Taliban has forced Afghan women back into head-to-toe burkas, while stripping them of their fundamental human rights. Girls and young women are once again denied secondary and university education, forced to leave their jobs, and kept indoors. In a shocking decree announced just this February, all pharmacies in two major cities of Afghanistan were ordered by the Taliban to stop stocking all forms of birth control medicines. Restricting contraceptives is devastating to women in a country with limited health-care provisions — and a death rate of one in 14 women from causes related to pregnancy.

Historically, the Taliban have beaten, raped, mutilated, and publicly executed women for violating their policies. The atrocities go further than this. But where there once was fire, ashes remain — smoldering ashes and flickers of flame not yet extinguished. Women are rising up in protest of having their basic human rights invalidated: the right to education, the right to work, the right to go outdoors alone, the right to make decisions about their own bodies.


 
¨The women depicted in this exhibition are only a small but powerful example of the bravery and human perseverance arising from the ashes of the collapse. I honor these women and all of the girls and women of Afghanistan, as they fight to keep the flame of hope burning in the otherwise lightless tunnel ahead.¨ - Christa Assad
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From the journal of Kiana Hayeri, Kabul, Afghanistan, August, 2022: “Taliban security forces opened fire of the heads of women who staged a rare protest in Kabul — a violent crackdown coming just two days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the group sweeping to power in Afghanistan. About two dozen women marched down a main street in central Kabul chanting, “bread, work, freedom,” “we want political participation,” and, “no to enslavement.”

While the Taliban authorities have allowed and promoted some rallies against the US, they have declined permission for any women’s rally since they returned to power.”


 

In Protest
Acrylic on plywood, 107 x 122 cm,
$6500 (framed)


 


From NYT article, “Loss Piles on Loss for Afghan Women,” photographs by Kiana Hayeri, written by Christina Goldbaum:

When the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, women were among the most profoundly affected. While the end of fighting offered a welcome respite, particularly for women in rural areas, others’ lives have been severely constricted. Many watched 20 years of gains made under Western occupation unravel as the new government issued edict after edict scrubbing women from public life.

 

 



 

Outing (Before)

Acrylic on plywood, 122 x 122 cm

$6800 (framed)

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They Killed Their Husbands
Acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
SOLD


From Kiana Hayeri’s photo essay, Where Prison Is a Kind of Freedom,
“In 2019, I spent two weeks inside Herat Women’s Prison in northwest Afghanistan, getting to know some of the 119 inmates incarcerated there. These women saw no other way out of abuse and domestic violence but to kill their husbands - an act that put them in even graver danger from their dead husbands' families. That’s why the 15-foot wall and the barbed wire surrounding the prison were there. To keep intruders who might want to take revenge, from getting in, as much as they were there to keep inmates from getting out. While these inmate’s past lives were harrowing, their lives inside prison were peaceful, happy and free. Despite the overcrowded cells, many inmates felt freer in prison than they had been in their marriages.

“On August 12, three short days before the Taliban took the capital of Afghanistan, the prison guards opened the gates of Herat prison, releasing all inmates with no question asked. But for these women, the release was anything but liberating. The freedom they experienced in jail is now taken away and replaced with more restrictions, fear and uncertainty. Today, millions of Afghan women are put away in this larger prison, called Afghanistan.”

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Unfamiliar (Upper Right)

Acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,

SOLD

 

Hafiza, an Afghan mother: one of her sons joined the Taliban, while three of her sons fought with the government forces backed by the United States. Twenty years of war pitting brother against brother.

Alight (Left)
Acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
$2200 (framed)

 

Education is a Right (Right)
Acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
SOLD

Without a high school graduation certificate, Afghan students cannot take the kankor national university entrance exam, which is required to enroll even at private colleges. Since the Taliban has now forbidden girls to attend secondary schools, this is in effect a complete ban on women’s eduction.


 

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Heaven
Acrylic on plywood,

61 x 61 cm,
SOLD


 

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Jason Motlagh,
Acrylic on plywood, NFS

*this exhibition evolved from conversations between Christa Assad and Jason Motlagh over the past 20 months since the Taliban’s takeover that marked the end of the 20-year War in Afghanistan. It was Jason’s passion for the subject that drew Christa in. His travels and reporting throughout war-torn Afghanistan — illuminating and dangerous — brought a human element to the otherwise ruthless conflict. Jason introduced Christa to Kiana Hayeri, who until only recently was reporting from Kabul, where she kept residence until the air-evacuation of August, 2021. The collaboration between Assad, Motlagh and Hayeri led to these artworks.

Jason Motlagh is an Iranian-American journalist and filmmaker drawn to underreported stories in challenging environments, with a focus on conflict, migration and human rights. He started reporting from Afghanistan in 2006 and became TIME magazine’s Kabul correspondent. Now a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, he’s worked in more than 60 countries spanning Southeast Asia to Latin America for National Geographic, Outside, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Economist. As founder of Blackbeard Media, Jason produces, directs and hosts news documentaries for Al Jazeera English, National Geographic, Vice on Showtime, and others. His recognitions include a National Magazine Award, Overseas Press Club Award, Kurt Schork Award for international war reporting, Daniel Pearl Award, and an Emmy. He lives in Todos Santos with his wife, two sons and three horses.




 

Taking Flight (Above Left)
acrylic on plywood, 92 x 122 cm,
$5800 (framed)

June 3, 2021, from the NYT article, Find Him and Kill Him, by David Zucchino, with photographs by Kiana Hayeri: “Find him and kill him,” were the instructions posted by the Taliban posted online along with a photo of Rahima’s husband, Major Naiem Asadi, a decorated Afghan Air Force helicopter pilot. The Asadi family had been in hiding for seven months when they were granted entry in the United States. The flight from Kabul to J.F.K. Airport in New York was an emotional one, as the couple and their five-year-old daughter would soon be separated from their loved ones and the only country they have ever known.

 



 

Kiana Hayeri,

Acrylic on plywood,

NFS

 

*this exhibition would not be possible without the photographs of Kiana Hayeri, from which all of these paintings of Afghan women are derived.Kiana Hayeri is an Iranian-Canadian photographer, focusing on migration, identity and sexuality in societies dealing with oppression or conflict. She is a Senior TED fellow and a regular contributor to The New York Times. Her work has appeared in Harper's Magazine, Foreign Policy, Washington Post, NPR, Monocle Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, The Globe and Mail, among others. Just last month (March 8, 2023), The New York Times published the chilling human-interest feature story, Loss Piles on Loss for Afghan Women, written by Christina Goldbaum, with emotive photos from Kiana’s eight-year stay in Afghanistan.

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Gas Mask I,
acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
$2000 (framed)



Gas Mask II,
acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
$2000 (framed)



Gas Mask III,
acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
$2000 (framed)



Gas Mask IV,
acrylic on plywood, 61 x 61 cm,
$2000 (framed)




Inquire

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About Christa Assad

Christa Assad is a feminist artist based in Baja, Mexico. Her recent exhibitions focus on women heroes of Mexico and Afghanistan, and the plight of women of these countries and many other patriarchal nations. Assad was awarded a J. William Fulbright Research and Travel Grant (1993) and was nominated for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award (2005). Her work is in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia, the Ceramic Research Center at Arizona State University Museum, and the Penn State Fulbright Collection. In April of 2023, Assad’s 24-panel piece, RIOTOUS, placed 12th in the Palm Foundation’s Call for Feminist Art competition, juried by Nadya Riot of the Pussy Riot Collective.

 

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