Endless battle   

• An Afghan child battles the relentless storm in Aziz Hazara’s Bow Echo, showing at John Curtin Gallery.

AFTER years of relentless suicide bombings in his hometown of Kabul in Afghanistan, Aziz Hazara decided to honour the city’s resilient children in his exhibition Bow Echo at John Curtin Gallery.

Originally born in Wardak in Afghanistan, Hazara now divides his time between Ghent in Belgium and Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul, where suicide bombings have occurred with horrifying regularity during the past two decades.

In 2021 Afghanistan continued to be the country worst impacted by suicide attacks with 65 per cent of all civilian global casualties from suicide bombings occurring there, according to Action on Armed Violence.

The highest-casualty suicide attack in 2021 was in Afghanistan, carried out by members of the Islamic State at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport, as thousands of Afghans attempted to board evacuation flights while the Taliban seized control of the country.

The suicide bombing claimed the lives of at least 149 civilians and injured 185 more. A total of 395 people were killed or injured.

Bow Echo has been inspired by my own experience of the recurring horrors of suicide bomb attacks that have unsettled the city of Kabul,” said Hazara. 

“They are a sort of ‘horror game’ and, since 2001, have taken place in different parts of the city, becoming an integral part of its recent history.

“The question of how best to represent this history and its effect on the lives of individuals has been one of the most persistent questions during the making of this work. Very often, the idea of representation becomes a dilemma.”

Made in collaboration with community and friends from the high hills of Kabul Province, the film Bow Echo follows five boys struggling to summit a large rock, battered by high winds.

They want to play a plastic children’s bugle to raise awareness of their community’s suffering and repression, which includes the murder of kids.

As people around the world play their shiny metal bugles, like at Anzac Day in Australia, the children’s plastic bugles are barely heard above the howling wind. The title of the exhibition Bow Echo refers to an endless string of thunderstorms that travel in a straight line; perhaps a metaphor for the never-ending wave of suicide bombings in Kabul.

Afghanistan has been rocked by dozens of suicide bombings since the Taliban seized power in 2021, mostly claimed by Isis-K, a local extremist offshoot of the Islamic State group.

The Taliban tend to underplay casualty figures in such incidents.

A multi-disciplinary artist, Hazara works in mediums including photography, video, sound, language programming, text and multimedia installations to explore themes like identity, memory and conflict.

As part of Bow Echo, Curtin art professor Kit Messham-Muir will give a talk ‘Crossing the Wire: The problem with Western War Art’ on Wednesday (March 15) between 12.30pm-1.30pm. The talk/discussion is part of the lunchtime John Curtin Gallery Speaker Series.

Premiered at the Sydney Biennale, Bow Echo will be on display at John Curtin Gallery until April 16 as part of the However vast the Darkness series, which features work from nine artists in celebration of the Gallery’s 25-year partnership with Perth Festival. 


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