Yalda Mushref, an alumna of the Youth Solidarity and English Language (YSEL) program, is sparking a new conversation by calling on fellow Afghans to preserve cultural heritage, specifically Tazhib, a historic Islamic artistic tradition.
On December 17, 2014, Yalda, in collaboration with the Organization of Afghan Alumni (OAA), hosted an Islamic art exhibition at Kabul University which showcased the beauty and intricacy of Tazhib, also known as gilding. She displayed more than a dozen pieces of her artwork — gilded images of Arabic calligraphy — to an audience of over 100 individuals including alumni, students, and lecturers at Kabul University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
As attendees browsed the expansive collection, Yalda detailed the origins of Tazhib. Derived from the Arabic word “zahab”, which means “gold”, Tazhib is the art of adorning books with delicate, decorative patterns. Originally, Tazhib artists, often called illuminators, crafted geometric flourishes and plant patterns in the color gold, hence the linguistic root of Tazhib. She explained that the linguistic roots of the word Tazhib in Arabic pointed to the deeply ingrained cultural and religious expression of this tradition across the centuries in Afghanistan, from designs that line pages of Persian poetry books to the tiles that decorate the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazar-e-Sharif.
She inspired attendees with the call to revive the art of Tazhib in Afghanistan as a path for peace, unity, and expression through art. Sumaya Jawad, a fellow alumna from the Youth Solidarity and English Language Program (YSEL) and current director of Youth Educational Association of Hope (YEAH), remarked: “The Tazhib art impressed me very much. …This exhibition inspired the Faculty of Fine Arts of Kabul University to consider having a special department for this art in the future, so I found its artistic impact on the audience more than what I expected.”