Mural exhibit reflects on war in Afghanistan
April 7, 2011
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On Oct. 7, 2001, the United States went to war in Afghanistan in response to the September 11 tragedy, calling the project, “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The touring Windows and Mirrors mural exhibit, now on display in the Hege Library atrium, brings this objective of “freedom” for Afghanistan into question.
Comprised of 45 panels, the exhibit showcases the work of artists, Afghan students from Kabul, and even members of the Guilford community. Junior Layth Awartani, a student who contributed to the exhibit, considered the experience of contributing to this project to be enlightening and gratifying.
“Even though I’m a social-science- oriented student, I like to stay open to other fields of study, such as art,” said Awartani.
The mural project is intended to remind the audience that after nearly 10 years of conflict, the U.S. is still at war and people are still suffering.
The title “Windows & Mirrors” was intended to reflect that through the exhibit, one is made privy to the circumstances of war. Viewers are meant to see a reflection of their own humanity, allowing the audience to identify with those involved.
“We who are not directly involved with the war are shielded by the censorship of media, and (in the murals), for a split second, are able to see through the ‘window,’ a reflection of the truth of what is actually going on,” said Awartani, who spent most of last spring semester preparing the project through the American Friends Service Committee.
Juniors Courtney Mandeville and Hannah Swenson also contributed to the mural along with Awartani. One of their pieces, “What’s Left of Kabul,” was chosen to be featured in a peace center in Afghanistan.
Though Windows and Mirrors is a welcome and striking temporary addition to the Guilford campus, some students see another side to the exhibit.
“What Guilford sees as desirable, is also very inflammatory,” said sophomore Morgan Eudy. “The goal would be to have the most unbiased view on global events.”
Sophomore Michael Frazier has a similar perspective, and referred specifically to the mural titled “The ‘Peace’ Operations of the U.S. Airstrikes on Weddings,” which includes the number of people killed at weddings from American bombing.
“I think they’re using specific examples to over-generalize the entire thing, not to mention its slander to the American name,” said Frazier. “They are directly saying that America intentionally bombs weddings.”
“I don’t think either (Morgan nor I) support the war efforts, it’s just a very negative portrayal of American foreign policy,” said Frazier.
The mural exhibit is provocative, but that serves to fulfill its ultimate purpose of prompting thought and dialogue over an important issue.
“I don’t know what will happen next (to promote peace), but it’s about spreading the message until something right is done,” said Awartani of the student community’s ability to promote positive change. “After all, the war is still very real.”
The exhibit will be up through April 15 and then will continue to tour; so be sure to take some time to admire, meditate on, and learn about the artwork that emerged from the destruction of war.