You can almost hear the cars and merchants, and smell the spices and food in Hangama Amiri’s large-scale tapestry Bazaar (2020). Amiri’s bazaar is a crowded arrangement of vendor stalls, store doors, and items for sale in her neighborhood market in Kabul, Afghanistan. It is decorated in a kaleidoscopic palette of jewel-tone fabrics, including thick muslins, sturdy cottons, delicate chiffons, rich velvets, and shimmering satins.
Amiri emphasizes the importance of women’s lives in contemporary Afghan society in this and related works by paying close attention to shops for women. Like many Middle Eastern cities, Kabul’s marketplace is the center of both economic and cultural life. However, it is also a public area that is shaped by the political climate and constantly changing regulations that are used against women and their autonomy. The misogynistic and repressive practices of the Taliban regime that currently control Afghanistan continue to dictate how, when, and with whom women can interact and transact business in the bazaar. Even though Amiri’s tapestry was created in 2020 (the year she received her MFA from Yale and more than a year before the Taliban took over officially), the lack of female bodies in the midst of establishments that catered to them illustrates how women continue to be present in public life despite efforts to erase them.