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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Afghan Artist Paints Corona On The Bricks Of The Timurid Period

Art helps the next generation to be reminded of their history

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Omid Sobhani
Omid Sobhani
Omid Sobhani is a senior journalist at Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Transcontinental Times.

AFGHANISTAN. Herat. Not only historians tell the stories of history but also the painters. Abul-Naser Sawabi is a Herati artist and art professor who started painting “Corona” on the bricks of the Timurid Empire period( 1405-1507) amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Herat; the city recorded the first case in Afghanistan in February.

He wants to speak with time through his works

Connecting the past with the present and the present with the future, Sawabi believes when someone can connect the past with the present, they can be aware of the current situation. I want to speak with time by my workpieces,” Sawabi explains. He depicted moments of people’s lives during the COVID crisis on the clay bricks of the Timorian period. According to him, it helps the next generation to be reminded of such a critical period.

The man in Timurid costumes disinfects the dragon from Coronavirus.
Photo Credit: Abdul-Naser Sawabi Facebook Page


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The artist started working on a series of 10 bricks as his focus point for the Coronavirus crisis. He calls the series of 8 completed works “The Golden Bricks,” which records the darkness of the virus. “When I saw people in the rural areas of Herat using the bricks of the Timurid monuments in the construction of houses and graves, I told myself some of these bricks can stay longer by my artwork,” Sawabi told Transcontinental Times.

He picked one of these bricks from a stream where people used it as a crossing bridge. “The produced bricks of the Timurid period signal that art is ingrained in the bricks and soil of this land. That is why I called them ‘ The Golden bricks’,” Sawabi said.

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Afghan government welcomed the initiative

Herat Culture and Information Department welcomed the initiative and spoke with the Afghanistan Culture and Information Ministry about buying these art pieces to keep them in the Afghanistan National museum. Sawabi is not interested in the government’s investment in his pieces; he has his own clients.

Creating unique pieces

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“I want to pour a unique pattern on every single brick I work on. So, that no other individual holds its 2nd copy,” he said, adding that the following pattern will not be used on the other pieces.

The woman in old costumes wears mask. Photo Credit: BBC Persian

Published outside of the country first

Media outside Afghanistan has covered the artist’s art. But he says the Afghan government has not realized the value of his work. “I worked for 2 years to write ‘The Black Pearl’. It has been translated into English and Japanese”. The book is also available on Amazon and in Tokyo and New York libraries, while its Persian version is not yet published in Afghanistan.

The Black Pearl book in Japanese language is available in Tokyo libraries.
Photo Credit: Omid Sobhani

Herat has a magnificent background in miniature crafts, and an independent art school in the province was created during the Timurid Era. The school is even popular abroad. Sawabi’s paintings include all those Timurid art style elements in the bricks with people in costumes of the period. The artwork of the bricks now convey the coronavirus period too into the future.


  • Omid Sobhani

    Omid Sobhani is a senior journalist at Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Transcontinental Times.

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