the afghan radish man


(click for a closer view)


This drawing is taken from a recent picture sent to me by Dana Holland (an assistant Professor of Social Science at AUAF in Kabul, Afghanistan & Sammy’s sister-in-law).

I was instantly struck by the subtle poignancy of this image, the man’s possible blindness, his simple yet profound chore.  He appears to have just picked the radishes he’s sorting, getting his mind on what’s next, or what has been.  Maybe he’s a farmer or just someone working for a farm.  Who knows where his mind is while he works, while Dana passed by & snapped his picture, while I draw him.  Most of the time I was drawing him, he was probably sleeping, resting & dreaming.  His work will be complete when someone pays-for, cooks & eats his radishes.   He’s working to feed people, perhaps because he can’t see enough to do more, perhaps because this kind of work suits his temperament. I’ll never know.  I’d be curious to know what he’d think, if he knew someone in the United States had drawn his portrait & was contemplating his life.  He seems to be a good, honest man & I wish him well.

After I drew the image, I wrote to Dana & asked about him & if he was in fact blind, she wrote:   

 “…I don’t know for sure, but people like the radish man who appear to have scars on their face (including having lost an eye), odds are it was from the war–either the war with the Soviets or the civil war that came afterwards with factions of the Mujahideen in Kabul (the area where I’m living and working was nearly flattened during this period in the mid-90s). So, it’s even sadder to think of this blind or injured man. There are also lots of people missing a limb, and this is almost always also from war or more particularly land mines (the Soviets planted lots and lots of them and they are still not fully detected or deactivated). So a picture, here (and everywhere), does indeed tell a thousand stories, individual, societal and historical.”


Aurelio Madrid

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