Afghan Mona Lisa

The captivating thing about the Mona Lisa is the depth of her gaze sinking into you, allowing you to see in them the way you feel, like a mirror.

 When you look at Sabouki’s ‘Afghan Mona Lisa’, you again feel that sinking feeling, yet it’s so dif­ferent. This time you become her, you feel the grace and pain of all Afghan women, but not as a cliché. You don’t have to see her suffering; you see her beautiful eyes smil­ing. You feel her glory and purity in a way not often seen.

This piece was first exhibited in Paris, where it was named ‘Afghan Mona Lisa’ by viewers. Then it won an award at the Art Olympia international open art competition in Tokyo, Japan in 2019 and was exhibited in Toshima and then in the Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo.

‘Afghan Mona Lisa’ is part of a series called The Children of Adam that portrays how "suffering" affects human beings in different corners of the globe. Sabouki has long been preoccupied with suffering and overcoming suffering, the need to be aware, to discover the path to finding the existential connection tying human beings to one another.

The characters in this series were all born in Iran, but their families immigrated from Afghanistan in the past. These immigrants to Iran have experienced many difficulties, but their younger generation is entering diverse artistic and professional communities, creating different conditions for themselves.

This generation may still follow a framework of their own beliefs and traditions, but this framework is not as rigid as it was in the past, as we can see in the images. Eyes that have never been seen before now see and are direct observers of the world.

This series of photos therefore takes a different approach to the women of Afghanistan. Take a look at the transition period of these children's lives in the context of immigration, walking the path of overcoming the restrictions and veils left over from the old traditions of their fathers--a process which I understand to be one of growth and liberation.

The cheerful and vibrant palette of this series is inspired by the rich colors of the traditional clothing of their homeland. Perhaps the present narrative and the change in my imagery is a step towards a better view of ourselves and our fellow travelers around the world. The name of this series is also inspired by the idea that although we live in different lands, we are all related, all coming from the same origin.