Artists join international mosaic message of support to Afghan women and girls

Mosaic artists in Queensland are using creative compositions of glass and ceramics to send a global message of support to women and girls in Afghanistan.

Hanging by a thread: Mosaics for Afghan Women is an international project involving 47 countries producing large-scale glass mosaics in the shape of a scarf.

The project began shortly after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, with the Queensland submission featuring 91 individual tiled panels.

Paul Perry, who is based in Bargara, is the Queensland representative of the Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand (MAANZ) and hopes the collaborative work sends a clear message reinforcing the right to education and employment for women and girls in Afghanistan.

“The project was started by a couple of people, one in Tunisia and another in Canada, just after the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan,” Mr Perry said.

“It was to try and draw attention to some of the issues that are happening in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls — the attitude to education and the stifling of the ability for them to be educated properly.”

Group effort to create mosaic message
More than 70 Queensland mosaic artists worked on the 10x25cm panels and sent them to Brisbane to be linked.

Each panel is designed to represent the diversity of the provinces and ethnic groups of Afghanistan, containing colours and patterns of cultural importance.

“Each of the components represents patterns of one of the tribes within Afghanistan,” Mr Perry said.

“There are something like 14 tribal groups and each of those groups has unique designs for fabrics.

“This project is informed by patterns that Afghan women use in their clothing to draw attention to the fact that the freedoms of these women have been lost and sometimes our freedoms are hanging by a thread.”

A team of artists in each state of Australia are also producing their own interpretation of the scarf mosaic, with the works to be linked together for an exhibition in Canberra next year.

Creating a mosaic can be bloody work
Cutting glass and ceramic pieces usually leads to accidental lacerations on an artist’s hands, but for Mr Perry the cuts and small scars he wears are a small price to pay and insignificant compared to the suffering of women in the troubled country.

“In most mosaics, you leave your DNA behind,” Mr Perry said.

“I certainly did cut myself a little bit here and there, and it did help me consider the suffering some of these women are going through.

“It wasn’t the strongest thought I had, but it was certainly a way to connect with them and a meaningful process to work through.”

The glass mosaic scarf is on display at the Brisbane Square Library, with an official launch by Rita Anwari, the founder and director of Women Empowerment and Leadership, at 12:30pm on Wednesday, September 21 for International Day of Peace.

The scarves created by the artists in the other Australian states will be joined with the Queensland work and exhibited in Canberra in 2023.