The Afghan Photography Network (APN) is an online resource for Afghan photography, as I have recently discovered, that contains a wealth of talents and serves as a valuable portal into this war-torn country, wracked by foreign invasions and religious strife. It is noteworthy that photography was first banned in 1996 when the Taliban came to power, then restrictions were subsequently eased upon their overthrow in 2001. While APN undertakes promotional activities to improve business and network opportunities for established Afghan photographers, it is also working to identify and develop new talent through workshops and educational programs. Barat Ali Batoor’s document “The Dancing Boys” serves as a sobering visual depiction of the many contemporary social issues facing Afghanistan today. Ali Batoor wrote: “Bacha Baazi is the name of a cultural tradition of young boys, dressed as women, dancing for men as entertainment. The dancing boys are called Bacha Bereesh (Boys without Beards). A young boy will live in the keep of a powerful man, and he will dress as a woman and dance for parties of men. Many times he will also become the man’s ‘wife’.”
Many years of war have caused a breakdown in Afghan society and allowed an abuse of power by those in control. The tradition of Bacha Baazi has become increasingly more common and many young boys are kidnapped and abducted into the practice. Homeless children and orphans are especially vulnerable.
To see more images by Ali Batoor, please visit here.
Billy Kung is photo editor for ArtAsiaPacific.