Erasing Ideas

It is easy to dismiss murals as graffiti or even as vandalism but over the years, and the last ten years in particular, they have flourished and have become widely accepted. What was once sometimes rude and crude is now often artful and valued.

Wherever I go, I enjoy seeing mural art. Most cities encourage muralists and have enabled them to make a living from their work. The murals may be in prominent places and they may also be tucked away underneath overpasses and on the walls of abandoned buildings. They may tell stories, celebrate local heroes, challenge assumptions, and promote minority views. Whatever the subject, without fail they give us something to think about.

That is why this morning’s news out of Afghanistan upset me. Before the Taliban had even installed an interim government they had begun painting over all the lovely murals. Whitewashing normally refers to covering up faults or errors. In this case, the faults are in the whitewash itself.

A man paints over murals on a concrete wall in Kabul with a message reading ‘For an Islamic system and independence, you have to go through tests and stay patient.’ Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

“The murals addressed everything from the killing of George Floyd in the US and the drowning of Afghan refugees in Iran, to the signing of the US-Taliban agreement towards peace and murder of a Japanese aid worker. “Artlords”, a group of creatives, painted the murals on walls and blast barriers, spending eight years transforming swathes of Kabul until the Taliban marched in.” Akhtar Mohammad Makoii (Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.)

Murals in Kabul depict an Iranian flag showing people drowning with text reading ‘We can’t breathe’ in Persian next to a picture of George Floyd. Photograph: Wana News Agency/Reuters

Omaid Sharifi, the art group’s co-founder, said “Our aim was to promote critical thinking and put pressure on the government to accept people’s demands”. “Taliban was and is an armed movement that only understands guns, violence, beating, beheading, suicide vests and bombs. There is no vocabulary about art in the Taliban’s dictionary. They even cannot imagine art. I think they don’t understand it, that’s why they are destroying it.” Akhtar Mohammad Makoii (Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.)

The mural of Tetsu Nakamura which has now been painted over by the Taliban Photograph: Stefanie Glinski/The Guardian

From now on I will look at murals with even more appreciative eyes and be grateful to live in a country that encourages this open expression of ideas.


  1. Upsetting as this is I firmly believe that a country gets the government it deserves.
    Eventually , some people will say enough is enough and do something about it.

      1. Agreed! But at some point, someone allowed them to be in this position.
        Stuff like what’s happening in Afghanistan does not happen in a vacuum.
        I reckon it’ll sort itself out eventually, much like what happened in Vietnam.

          1. Quite right.,
            When one considers how long Afghanistan has been ”in the crapper”, it is difficult to know what the solution is, but you’re take is probably spot on.

Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.