This is a happy story about Afghanistan and the United States. It's about art marching with commerce and people of two cultures clasping hands as friends and partners. It's about a presentation taking place Jan. 19 in Webster Groves, where a former Afghan ambassador to the U.S. will discuss the culture of Afghanistan and help unveil a section of the MacroSun International gallery to be devoted to Afghan artifacts produced by native creators.
Yar Mohabbat, trained as an architect and now a St. Louis restaurateur, is the former ambassador. He moved with his family to St. Louis about four years ago, concerned about their safety under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Yet his presentation will celebrate culture, not debate politics -- offering St. Louis a chance to learn about Afghan culture, to ask questions and to gain appreciation for the surprisingly large number of Afghan refugees who have come to live in the metro area.
"People have heard about the Taliban; we want to focus on the humanity and the beautiful culture of the Afghani people," says Gil Williams, president of MacroSun International, an importer of grassroots artifacts. "We want people to know of the beautiful art, the beautiful jewelry and the beautiful textiles. We want to create a bridge through the medium of art, which is nonthreatening. Hopefully we can see the common humanity in this world situation. We want to make the Afghani culture accessible so that people can reach out and touch it, you know?"
The afternoon will feature Afghan music, as well as cups of traditional green tea, a staple drink of Afghanistan. Williams first met with Afghan hospitality in 1993 and never forgot the experience.
"There's something really moving about the graciousness that I found in the people," he says. "These are people without a homeland, in little tents and in refugee camps, and they're offering to share their meals with me. Once the headlines fade on Afghanistan, we want to have created a heightened awareness of the beauty of the people."