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© Culturistan Instagram handle

Snapshots from a forgotten land

A grizzled old man holds Gul e Lala (vivid red flowers) in his hands. A child stands alone in the middle of a desolate school room with a crumbling ceiling and half-wiped-out chalkboard that was once filled with the sounds of laughter and learning. Three women in vivid scarves pose for the camera as they celebrate their last day of freedom…

Everyday Afghanistan is an Instagram page that shows a different side of the country than what can be found in mainstream media. And it is one of a few such pages on Instagram that shows the lives of the people in a country on the brink of devastation.



If one were to Google Afghanistan, one would find a multitude of news articles about the withdrawal of the US troops, the Taliban uprising and, more recently, the simmering socioeconomic crisis. However, Instagram pages such as Everyday Afghanistan and Culturistan and of freelance photographers such as Kanika Gupta show what life is on the ground.

© Everyday Afghanistan Instagram handle

Moments of happiness, laughter, sorrow, anger and protest are portrayed unabashedly on their pages. Each page has its own unique approach to further the narrative.

Everyday Afghanistan is a curated collection of snapshots of everyday life that range from beautiful to starkness – speaking about both the beauty of the country and its people as well as the hardships they have to go through. For instance, a photograph on the page depicts a boy playing football to pass the time in the middle of Ramadan fasting while another is a moment captured from women’s protest against their ban from education, and yet another is an action shot of a Taliban soldier playing volleyball.



Culturistan is a mix of posters, recent photographs and iconic vintage photos that are used as a form of protest against the current regime as well as a way to keep the true narrative of the country alive. As a photographic protest against the ban on women’s education in the country, one of the posts consists of a series of photographs depicting women at different educational institutions, including universities, nursing schools and summer camp, during the 1970s and ’80s. Another post narrates the history of Helmand Province along with snapshots of the people and landscape of the region. And yet another post shows Turkmen women of Afghanistan in their traditional costumes and contains a short informative piece on their origin and culture.

© lifeoutside2by2 Instagram handle

Photojournalist Kanika Gupta takes a more personal approach on her page. The Indian journalist, who had to be evacuated from Afghanistan when the Taliban first took over, has since returned, and has resumed her efforts of documenting the country. On her Instagram handle, lifeoutside2by2, she fearlessly interviews and photographs Taliban soldiers, bringing out both the cruelty and humanity in their stories. A snapshot of a man who has been taught to believe that “making landmines is holier than fighting” is juxtaposed with one of two friends – one of whom used to be in the National Army and the other, a hardened Taliban, who joined when an American drone strike killed seven of his family members on a single day. Today, the two friends, who have both joined the regime, reminisce about having fought on different sides.



While each page takes a different approach, their message is the same—to look beyond the statistics and attempt, as best summed up by Everyday Afghanistan, to portray “a country in the midst of war and survival.”

By Dyuti Basu Published on April 24, 2022



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