The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 Friday, May 7, 2021

The breakdancers of Kabul: Afghan youth busting moves
In this photo taken on August 4, 2019, Afghan breakdancers pose for a photograph at the French Cultural Centre in Kabul. In the land of suicide bombings, burqas, and unending war, a group of Afghans have turned to breakdancing for stress relief and self expression even as fears of a Taliban return to power spark worries of a renewed crackdown on the arts. WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP.

by Mushtaq Mojaddidi

KABUL (AFP).- In the land of suicide bombings, burqas, and unending war, a group of Afghans have turned to breakdancing for stress relief and self-expression -- even as fears the Taliban could yet return to power fuel worries of a renewed crackdown on the arts.

At the French Cultural Centre in Kabul, the group takes turns practising the basics -- toprocking, headspins, and freezes, while watching YouTube videos on their phones of famous b-boys like Lilou and Hong Ten for inspiration.

"Breakdancing keeps us away from stress and war. It gives us freedom. It frees our minds from the stress of living in Kabul and we forget about the war and killings," explains Murtaza Lomani, 23, from the Top Step crew.

Still, breakdancing is a rare sight in the fiercely conservative Islamic society, where traditional folk music mostly dominates the radiowaves and dancing takes place mainly at gender-segregated weddings.

The cultural centre is one of the few places in the Afghan capital where the mixed-gender Top Step crew are able to practise and feel relatively safe, Lomani says. But even here there are risks.

Just five years ago, the centre was attacked by the Taliban as it hosted a play about suicide bombings, where Lomani was among the injured.

Breaking barriers
For Heja Aalia, who says she is one of just four female breakdancers in Kabul, there are other worries.

"If I train outdoors in our society, people insult you," says Aalia, adding that many young women are interested in breakdancing but are unable to get permission from their families to try it out.

"It's really difficult for a girl to practise breakdance, especially in Afghanistan where people think dance is against Islamic culture."

The sport first originated in New York's Bronx borough in the 1970s, where "breaking" along with rap music and graffiti art formed the pillars of hip hop culture that has gone on to dominate everything from pop music to fashion worldwide in the ensuing decades.

But while the rest of the world was quick to embrace that culture, decades of war and hardline Taliban rule in the 1990s prevented the phenomenon from taking root in Afghanistan.

"Afghan society has changed a bit in recent years, the generations have changed and people are thinking positively," says Lomani, who admits that many laughed at their dance moves when they first started in 2011.

"But we have convinced some youth and now it is really good that we practise," he adds.

Fellow Top Step member Obaidullah Koofi, 24, says he first got interested in breakdancing after seeing videos online.

"We learn our new moves from YouTube, and YouTube is our mentor because we do not have any trainer here to... teach us," he says.

However there are fears that it all may change soon.

Taliban shuffle
After 18 years of war, the United States spent the last year locked in negotiations with the Taliban, seeking a deal that could see a gradual withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan.

The deal was, temporarily at least, taken off the table after President Donald Trump declared the talks "dead" earlier this month.

Instead, Afghans are now gearing up for a presidential election set for Saturday, when incumbent Ashraf Ghani and main rival Abdullah Abdullah will be seeking a strong mandate to negotiate with the Taliban as they seek a lasting peace.

However Washington's desire to end its longest war has been made clear, and Afghans are still apprehensive that a hasty US exit -- with or without a deal -- might allow the long-feared Islamists, who have been resurgent on the battlefield in recent years, to regain some semblance of power in Kabul.

"If the Taliban come none of us can continue," says Aalia.

But despite those fears, and the backlash against female breakdancers, she has vowed to continue.

"One day if the Taliban comes, we can stop this publicly," she says.

"But we will practise breakdancing underground or secretly."

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

September 25, 2019

"Wednesday Society" exhibition on view at Artam Antik A.S.

James Cohan opens an exhibition of important works by the late Nam June Paik

Opera star Placido Domingo withdraws from all future Met performances

Traditional Jewish instrument that survived Auschwitz shown in New York

Allora & Calzadilla open an exhibition of new works at Gladstone Gallery

Hauser & Wirth opens the first solo L.A. exhibition in over half a century dedicated to Philip Guston

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Director Lawrence Rinder steps down

The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents four innovative fall exhibitions

'The Monster' roars as PSA Current #2 finest T206 set smashes multiple world records in Heritage $2.75 million auction

Replica of beloved Josef Albers mural "Manhattan" has returned to original home in lobby of 200 Park Avenue

Bonhams appoints Amelia Manderscheid as Senior Director of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Americas

Swann Galleries announces a sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts

The Wallace Collection to lend works for the first time

Davis Museum opens major solo exhibition of multimedia works by Fatimah Tuggar

The breakdancers of Kabul: Afghan youth busting moves

Solo exhibition of works by influential Californian artist Ron Nagle opens in London

Remington's Bronco Buster among coveted western choices in Heritage Auctions' American Art auction

The Grand Canal, Venice by Irma Stern leads Bonhams Modern and Contemporary African Art Sale

Dallas Museum of Art appoints Vivian Li Curator of Contemporary Art

Milestone's auction features important relics from Civil War through Gulf War era

The Bronx Museum of the Arts opens the first U.S. retrospective of photographer Henry Chalfant

Hunters Point Library opens to the public

Tiffany, Picasso, marble statuary and furniture highlight Fontaine's Auction Gallery sale

Exhibition by Sidsel Meineche Hansen opens at Chisenhale Gallery

Newark Museum exhibitions showcase different routes to a meaningful life

Mr Brainwash

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful