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Artist Captures Afghan Life Through Hyper-realist Portraits

Mowahid found art in the spaces between the news, a world where there was only him and the sound of his brushes

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Omid Sobhani
Omid Sobhani
I am Omid Sobhani, Journalism Undergraduate student at Herat University, Western Afghanistan. I love to cover social, political, entertainment stories from Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN. Herat. Musa Mowahid, a young Afghan artist, is a journalism senior student at Herat university who spends time painting his feelings. Known as “Picasso” among his friends, he creates portraits that astounded everyone. For some, they are more real than real.

Portraits “more real” than photographs

Mowahid portrays the pain of the Afghan people through a style called hyper-realism which blurs the border between photograph and painting.

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“I remember the picture of my uncle on the wall of our house. It was 2 times taller than my height, and I wanted to have this photo for myself. There was no facility to print at that time. I tried to transmit the photo on paper. Later, I found my ability to draw on the paper,” Mowahid said, adding that he created his own strategy to capture the image. Drawing a subject which he picks himself gives him joy.

Commitment to depict reality

Mowahid emphasizes that his audience understands what is happening inside Afghanistan, but he can not work on “happiness” pieces. Living in a war-torn country, he must portray the realities. His inner feelings do not allow him to work on pieces that are not in accordance with the realities of Afghan life.

The portrait of a nurse who was on the front line of battling the coronavirus while she came under Taliban attack. Photo Credit: Musa Mowahid Facebook page

A heroic win against corona

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In Afghanistan, Corona killed mostly old men. He portrays an elderly Afghan who survived coronavirus. “We lost many old men in the city but I tried to say that we have gone through many wars worse than this and corona could be a usual enemy for [we] Afghans. That is why I wanted to transfer a sense of victory on his face,” he told Transcontinental Times.

The portrait of an old man who survived COVID-19 pandemic. Photo Credit: Musa Mowahid

Beauty shines through suffering

Drawing is a doorway for Mowahid, a space he describes as full of beauty. “In quarantine, I actively escaped to corona isolation. There were statistics of infections, deaths. The flood of immigrants entering to Herat from Iran, explosions, and suicide attacks. Sometimes when I tried to escape from the news, I found art in that world. The world where there was only me, the sound of my brushes and pencils with a piece of music,” Mowahid said.

Changing perceptions

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Mowahid’s work astounds all who see it, and he is working to change the mindset of foreigners about Afghans. Foreigners should not read just about war in Afghanistan, but also about art and our abilities for changing the world. “I believe I can change their mindset by my realistic artworks,” Mowahid shared. “Picasso” indeed.

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