At cultural festival, multicoloured ‘pencil tree’ an emblem of a diverse, unified Afghanistan
HERAT - Multicoloured pencils, hanging from branches like leaves, formed the creative set-piece during an Afghanistan-wide poetry competition that drew hundreds of poetry aficionados from across the country to the western province of Herat for a celebration of Afghan literature.
The ‘pencil tree’ – photographed by dozens of people before and after the main event – was created by a small group of young poets specifically for the competition.
“Our first idea was to attach notebooks to the tree, but we changed our mind and attached colourful pencils instead,” said Farida Rahmani Parsi, one of the artists who created the work.
“The pencils not only symbolize the different tribes of Afghanistan, but also make the tree emblematic of how education and knowledge can unite a prosperous and diverse Afghanistan,” she explained.
The festival, which took place in the Herat Citadel in August, was organized to help young people from across the country apply their talents to the tradition of Afghan poetry. The competition drew an audience of hundreds of literature enthusiasts, and featured poetry recitals and musical performances.
Submission of entries into the competition started last year, with the final awards festival promoted through television and radio campaigns that encouraged young poets to use Afghanistan’s traditional literary genres to develop counter-narratives to violence, weaving their words together to build a sense of community cohesion, mutual respect and tolerance.
The Literary Association of Fedayee Herawi organized the initial call for competition entries back in 2017. Encouraged by the response, they widened the scale of the initiative and coordinated with other organizations, including UNAMA, in a bid to involve more budding poets from across the country.
UNAMA’s regional office in Herat has been working for several years with young people to help create opportunities to have their voices heard. The Herat poetry festival, designed to promote thinking around peace by giving voice to the views of ordinary Afghans, is part of a countrywide outreach programme aimed at creating platforms – using radio, television and social media – where Afghans can engage in dialogue and discuss critical issues affecting their communities.
Herat, as a city with a rich culture and history, has deep roots in poetry and literature. The province has nurtured the talents of numerous poets, writers, historians, painters and calligraphers over the years.
Today, although Herat is in the western corner of Afghanistan, it maintains its importance as a cultural magnet. The province lies on the ancient trade routes of the Middle East, Central and South Asia. After Kabul, it has the most universities in the country. Poetry recitals in Herat are often informal events and a popular choice for social and family meetings.
Read the full story on the Herat cultural festival here: