Still from documentary "Kabul Beauty" (Erna Andersen)
It may seem trivial, but in Afghanistan, painting your nails is an act of defiance and is potentially dangerous. Erin Andersen lived and worked in Afghanistan over extended periods of time, during which she gained an in-depth knowledge about the history and issues of women in this very conservative society.
"In Afghanistan there is and has been a strict male-dominated culture, which dictates how women are allowed to express themselves in the public sphere. Afghan women - just like every woman in the world - like to dress up and wear make-up, but they have historically been prevented from doing so. During the Taliban period women would face serious repercussions for simply painting their nails."
Andersen will be showing her film Kabul Beauty as part of the upcoming Craftstravaganza at Mentoring Artists for Women's Art (MAWA) during a workshop on Afghani manicure and nail painting.
Kabul Beauty tells the story of two women entrepreneurs, and the challenges faced as self-employed beauticians with their own beauty parlors in Kabul. "In Afghanistan, there are beauty parlours that specialize in laying make-up to look like their favorite Indian movie stars. Hence, there is the perception that beauty and fashion is closely connected to arts and crafts."
Leilomah Ahmad worked as manicurist and nail painter during the Taliban regimen before coming to Canada five years ago. She will be offering free manicures during the workshop and sharing her story with those in attendance.
Andersen believes that it's important for Canadians to understand that much of what is taken for granted here and elsewhere can be an act of defiance in other countries. Yet ultimately she wants people to see past the repression.
"Afghanistan is mostly known for generations of political unrest and violence, and I think it is important for Canadians to personally be exposed to and informed about the richness of contemporary Afghan culture."