Following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 5 million refugees left the country; some seeking refuge in the US. From 2006 to 2011, the Afghan population in the US has grown from 66,000 to 300,000, due to the US invasion and war following 9/11. The Bay Area is home to the largest community of Afghan Americans in the US and has become a cultural haven for a growing number of Afghan artists and musicians. The Centerville district of Fremont, known as Little Kabul, has its own mosque, shops, restaurants, food stores, and bookstores.
Artist Shokoor Khusrawy is among the latest wave of refugees, settling in the US in 2010 in order to escape the ongoing violence in his home city of Kabul. In Afghanistan he made a living selling portraits and landscapes to American servicemen at the ISAF base near the US Embassy in Kabul. Now he is attempting to start over, living with his brother Jelani in a tiny apartment in Fremont with the balcony doubling as his art studio.
Crippled by fall at the age of 7, Shokoor’s leg never healed, so he does all of his painting seated on the floor, using a palette knife in place of a brush to achieve his impressionistic style. Since his escape from the war, his subject matter has changed to reflect his new surroundings. He’s drawn to the bright colors of San Francisco, visiting again and again to take photos of its iconic buildings and landmarks.
Musician Homayoun Sakhi is world-renowned for his mastery of the rubab, a double-chambered lute with origins that can be traced back 2,000 years. His repertoire spans classical Afghan folk music, with lyrics derived from the poetry of Rumi, to his own contemporary fusion compositions. Sakhi also leads “Voices of Afghanistan,” a touring and recording group of Afghan musicians and singers who perform traditional folk songs representing the diverse regions of their homeland. Taking center stage with the ensemble is Afghan diva Ustad Farida Mahwash, one of very few women to achieve the title of “Ustad,” considered a master of music in the Afghan community.