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Kubra Khademi, sin of armor for gender equality among the Taliban

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A performance does not have the same value depending on where it is performed. For example, it is much less dangerous – and much more anecdotal – to undress in Paris in front of the camera during the Caesars ceremony than walking in armor through the streets of Kabul.

Kubra Khademi tried in 2015, in an artistic process to denounce the harassment and attacks against women in Afghanistan. She did not last ten minutes, and the photos of the event testify to the unease: all these men who surround her, scary looks, their spitting, their insults … She is amused by our dismay: “But it’s our daily there! They behaved exactly as expected. Unconsciously, they too performed. ”

It was not his first blow of glory. In 2013, we had already seen it installed on a highway in Pakistan, as for a picnic, to better highlight the hidden place of women in society. But the armor blow was almost fatal to him, and Unesco had to organize his exile to France. She would have died of it, otherwise: “I thought it was going to calm down, it was just an artistic performance, after all.” But I was too optimistic. My enemies are not just the Taliban. I was even attacked by the intellectuals there. If I had stayed, I was over a thousand times, ”she swears.

Unbearable violence

We find her in her workshop the Fiminco Foundation, in Romainville, north-east of Paris. A spacious and calming place, with a host of drawings on the wall, almost all of them focused on the nude and sexuality. Tossed between blockages and outlet, she tells things that are difficult to imagine despite the details. A childhood of refugee, between Iran and Pakistan. His mother married at 12, first child at 13, ten in total.

She in the middle of the siblings, with four big brothers and an unbearable violence on a daily basis. Blows for her repeated disobedience – the nude drawings she hid under her mattress, for example – blows for her independent character. When she cried too hard, too. She says she has kept a real relationship with her mother and younger sisters. Less with his brothers: “With us, the more virile men are, the better they are considered. It’s a cliché, but the meaner they are to their sisters, the better it will be for them. Afterwards, they will repeat the pattern with their wife. ”

She is a little tired of telling her story again, and always surprised to see the pity in the eyes of Westerners: “People are judging me here, they don’t understand. And I say over and over, “It’s not just my story, but that of my country.” So “Oh, poor thing!” No, I don’t want to hear it anymore. ” His life is a saga with multiple entries, too numerous to mention them all here. She had to drop out of school at age 11 to work and was able to return two years later, through harassment, while still working to ensure her financial independence.

During her forced cut, she notably learned embroidery, in order to increase her “market value” for a forced marriage. Because without his extraordinary will, the same fate as his mother was promised to him. “I did everything to escape it. Since I hadn’t been taught how to do it, I tried everything. Each time, I found a new way to refuse. The last was a hunger strike. I could write a book just on this passage. “

She will undoubtedly do so, the better to exorcise a past that continues to inhabit her. She has lived in Paris for six years, with a feeling of freedom that seems to amaze her every time she talks about it. At first in shock, haunted by a feeling of injustice too strong, she said she was unable to see the beauty around her.

Stress and anxiety

Today, it is a therapy which allows him to untie the threads: “For two years, I carried a lot of anguish and stress in me. Everyone who passed me looked at me strangely, they saw immediately that I was not well. But it took a while for me to realize, accept and make the decision to get help. At each session, I unearth something new. There is so much to tell, so many details. ”

When the story becomes too intense, she switches from French to English. Words come out better, faster. For three months she has been exhibiting her falsely naive and hyper-powerful drawings at the Eric Mouchet gallery, in Paris (end scheduled for April 16; see below). She will soon be leaving for six months in residence in New York, as soon as the situation allows:

Then she will come back to live in Paris, which has welcomed her so well: “I have been asked a million times if I miss my country. In Pakistan, life was terrible. In Iran, anti-Afghan racism is incredible, people laughed at my flattened nose, my slanted eyes. And Afghanistan has been at war for forty years. Here I can create whatever I want [elle montre sa chemise en coton, toute simple]. Dressing me like this is gorgeous, you can’t even imagine. I am living my childhood dream. So fuck, obviously I’m happy here. I don’t want to be pitied. ”


1989 Birth in the Ghôr province, in Afghanistan.

2015 Exile in France following “Armor”, his performance in Kabul.

2016 Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.

2020 Obtains French nationality.

2021 Residence in New York thanks to the Solomon Foundation (waiting).

Find all portraits of “Time”.

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