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The Beauty Academy of Kabul
Liz Mermin
United StatesGALLERYCONVERSATION
 Media Center
I knew very little about Afghanistan and even less about beauty schools when I came across a story about an American-funded beauty academy in post-Taliban Kabul.

Because I studied anthropology, the pitfalls of presuming to represent a foreign culture have been impressed deeply into my mind. Nevertheless, I found this story irresistible: It was controversial, inherently aesthetic, and it dealt with a part of the world we Westerners needed to understand.

Our standard vision of Afghan women - oppressed, hidden and tormented - isn't entirely wrong, but it's terribly narrow. The seriousness with which these women embraced hair and makeup amidst such tremendous destruction and poverty seemed, at first, bizarre. But beauty is a big business in Kabul - a fact that blatantly contradicts conjectures that Islam denies and oppresses femininity.

We were in Kabul for almost ten weeks, and the exchanges that took place behind the camera informed my treatment of those we caught on tape. The students seemed amused and touched by us - four women living far from home, lugging around heavy equipment, bizarrely determined to film their every move.

They had a lot to say, and back home, in the edit room, the responsibility of conveying their message was overwhelming. What they expressed again and again was their fear that Afghanistan will be forgotten by the rest of the world as it had happened in the past; that it will be used as a pawn in a bigger global game and then left on its own to deal with the consequences.

I hope that in its small way, this film will play a part in bringing these women's reality closer to our own, by reminding us that we're all part of the same fragile world and that only chance has kept some of us safe while forcing others to endure incomprehensible hardship. I hope that this film will inspire us to think - and argue - about what we need to do to make this world a happier place for everyone. I also hope that it will teach people something about the fine art of cutting hair.

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Brenda Jiménez
Mexico
Latest Comment
I read a few post and they all got to me in different levels, some made me smile, some think about the culture and country i live in: they made me realize how every day mexican woman try to look more and more americanized or european, but...
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