STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future
The Bundeskunsthalle Discourse Format

The Common Ground

Perspectives for Art and Culture in Afghanistan
Tuesday, 12 October, 7.00 pm, live in the Forum
and livestreamed in German, Dari and English

Artists fled – if they were able to; in the Bamiyan valley, cultural treasures were looted and sold off, and the Chinese mining lease for the copper mine beneath the important archaeological site in Mes Aynak is up for renegotiation. In the wake of the Taliban’s return to power, Afghanistan has once again entered a period of uncertainty. What will remain of the institutions that have been built up over the past twenty years, partly with German involvement? What are the prospects for the preservation of Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage? And how can the cultural isolation of the country be prevented? The filmmaker Sahraa Karimi, the director of the National Music Institute Ahmad Sarmast, the diplomat Martin Kobler and the exhibition manager of the Bundeskunsthalle Susanne Annen discuss these questions with the journalist and moderator Natalie Amiri at STUDIO BONN.

In May 2019, film director Sahraa Karimi, born in Tehran in 1985, became the first woman to head the Afghan Film Organisation, founded in 1968. She was forced to leave the country after the Taliban seized Kabul in late August 2021. Her film Hava, Maryam, Ayesha premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019.

Ahmad Naser Sarmast, born in 1963, is an ethnomusicologist. He graduated from the Afghan Academy of Music in 1981, left the country during the civil war in the early 1990s and returned after the defeat of the Taliban. In 2010, he opened the National Music Institute in Kabul; in 2014 he was injured in a Taliban suicide attack. In August 2021, the Taliban’s return to power forced him to leave the country; he now lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Martin Kobler, born in Stuttgart in 1953, was German ambassador to Pakistan, (2017-2019), Iraq (2006-2007) and Egypt (2003-2006). He led UN missions in Libya (2015-2017), Congo (2013-2015), Iraq (2011-2013), and Afghanistan (2010-2011). From 2007 to 2010, he was head of the Department of Culture and Communication at the German Foreign Office, and from 2000 to 2003, he was head of the office of Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. The blowing up of the Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley by the Taliban in March 2001 and the deployment of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan thus occurred during his time in office. More recently, he has been involved in private cultural sponsorship in Afghanistan as a member of the board of trustees of the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

As exhibition manager of the Bundeskunsthalle, Susanne Annen, born in Meerbusch in 1965, curated the 2010 exhibition Afghanistan. Recovered Treasures. The Collection of the National Museum in Kabul. She then worked in Kabul as an advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, organising and designing collections, excavations and exhibitions.

Natalie Amiri, born in Munich in 1978 as the daughter of a German mother and an Iranian father, reported from Tehran as an ARD correspondent from 2007 and was nominated for the German Television Award in 2019. Amiri hosts the ARD program Weltspiegel as well as Euroblick on Bavarian Television. A bestselling author, she has repeatedly travelled to Afghanistan and is currently working on a book about the country.