Rich, vibrant, and thriving, despite all the odds – these are the words we would use to describe the contemporary popular cultures of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the security narrative dominates international discussions about these two countries, beyond the headlines an artistic and cultural vitality endures despite the many challenges facing the people of this region.

In this special collection, we give space to these important, often overlooked, dynamics by featuring a diverse series of articles and interviews touching on everything from art to music to theatre. These pieces reveal how instability and insecurity have failed to deter men and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan from pursuing their artistic passions. In fact, many have used their environment to shape their work, using art to comment on their surroundings, and challenge the problems facing their societies. The collection includes a look at the history of contemporary rap in Pakistan, the popularity of the ‘Afghan Star’ reality contest, and an interview with one of Pakistan’s preeminent artists, Aisha Khalid, among others.

We are also honored to have an original piece of art, titled “Stone Lovers,” created by Pakistani artist, Atif Khan, exclusively for Muftah in honor of this special collection. To purchase limited editions of this print on posters and other products, please click here or on the image below.

Atif Khan for Muftah

Atif Khan for Muftah

As always, we encourage you to share your thoughts on these pieces here on the site, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Engage with the authors, share your reactions and points of view, critique, compliment, push back, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. We look forward to continuing the conversation and confronting narrow, mainstream narratives about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Art & Culture of Pakistan and Afghanistan

By Khwaja Hamzah Saif

The Strength of Beauty: An Interview with Aisha Khalid

By Lavinia Filippi

Forging Her Own Path: Shehnaz Ismail, Pakistan’s Doyenne of Textile Design

By Nadya Chishty-Mujahid

Contemporary Culture & Society in Afghanistan-Pakistan

By Jawan Shir Rasikh

Landay Poetry in Afghanistan

By Elisa Cestari 

“Afghan Star:” Pushing Cultural Boundaries, Preserving Cultural Traditions

By G. Abbas Wafa 

Art in Afghanistan: A Time of Transition

By Francesca Recchia

A Literary Voice from Pakistan’s Frontier: A Conversation with Hasina Gul

By Ilona Yusuf

Exhibiting Art in Pakistan: Art Chowk Gallery

By Owais Arshad

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