Aman Mojadidi poses as a "jihadi gangster" in a photo titled "After a Long Day's Work," part of the "A Day in the Life of a Jihadi Gangster" photo series
Self-Described 'Redneck' Takes On Kabul Art Scene
Radio Free Europe By Frud Bezhan
Im an Afghan by blood and a redneck by the grace of God," Aman Mojadidi says in introducing himself. "I'm an atheist and a radically politicized artist."
Nine years ago, the Afghan-born American performance artist returned from Florida to his native Kabul. In that time the 41-year-old has made a name for himself as a leading provocateur within the Afghan capital's emerging art scene.
Through various art forms, including film, photography, and public installation projects, Mojadidi has waged a relentless campaign against what he sees as the excesses of the Afghan government and political stagnation in the war-torn country he was forced to flee as a child.
Mojadidi's chief targets have been corruption, which he says permeates all levels of society, and the monopolization of political power by the country's former warlords and militia leaders.
"The rampant corruption manifests itself here in a way that it affects everyone, not just the higher levels of politics. I also think [a problem] is the political control in the hands of jihadist leaders," Mojadidi says.
"I don't think the country will be able to really move forward as a nation until political power ceases to be in the hands of those who rest all their authority on the fact that they did jihad against the Soviet Union," he adds. "They are keeping the country stagnated in that period."
Some, predictably, take offense to pictures depicting him as a warlord sitting beside his golden wooden leg, trying to watch television while a scantily-clad, burqa-wearing woman tries to get his attention.
By the same token, photos of him sitting in a barber shop adorned in a Confederate flag, swilling Budweiser beer, might rub some in the religiously conservative country the wrong way.
But while Mojadidi has occasionally come into conflict with the Afghan authorities, he has never been formally charged. And he has answers for his critics.
Working in Afghanistan has been "schizophrenic," Mojadidi says. He insists that although the country is a "junkman's paradise" in terms of artistic practice, the development of the Afghan art scene is being held back by religious radicals and powerful politicians keen on stifling criticism.
What drives him to labor every day in the hostile conditions in Afghanistan, he says, is the same reason he moved back to the country in the first place.
"What moved me here has a lot to do with doing something to contribute to Afghanistan and to do something to help Afghanistan in some way," Mojadidi says. "There's also a desire to get to know my cultural heritage and try and connect more with that heritage."
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Link to Aman's website here