Sunday, July 16, 2006

taliban tourism

My friend is leaving Shanghai and has given me this as a memento. It's from Afghanistan, bought just after the war and yes, it's a miniature burka. As a recognised symbol of the Taliban's oppression I think it makes an uncomfortable souvenir.
And especially when its also a wine bottle cover.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Its existence is a train wreck of kitsch and evoked human rights abuses. It is sitting in my kitchen like some sort of post-modernist commentary on national identity, gender, religious belief and consumerist culture. It is impossible to put it anywhere without amplifying this. In a drawer? Shutting away uncomfortable history. In amongst the bills? A comment on petty everyday concerns versus others' real struggle. It's just too big a symbol to sit in my knick-knack pile.

I'm sure it was very simple commercial sense and opportunism that created this but I can't help feeling its existence is really some sort of indictment of the world today.

update: in a rare moment of social consciousness I remembered this organisation is defending women's rights in Afghanistan; Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, please have a look at how to help them. Sadly, there's plenty of work left to be done.


JamesB said...

does laughing negate some moral engagment or position? i just found it funny... although a rather sad indictment for sure.

i see what you mean said...

you're right, it is funny. I get a sort of Larry Davids cringe laugh with it. Then followed by moral pangs. It's kind of 'Springtime for Hilter and Germany' in The Producers in a way, pure satire. Except its just tourist tat really.

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