The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development.
Afghanistan's arts are slowly emerging from the ruins left behind by the Taliban regime. Since 2004, the Center for Contemporary Art Afghanistan (CCAA) and the art magazine Gahnama-e-Hunar have been free havens for poetry, music, theatre, visual arts and dance after years of repression and prosecution. Plurality is the key word in Afghanistan's cultural policy, which also places top priority on the recovery of cultural heritage.
The CCAA and the magazine were established thanks to the initiative of A.W. Rahraw Omarzad, the Nestor of Afghanistan arts. It is his hope that the centre will improve art education and provide a stage for artists who previously could only work and exhibit in freedom in other countries. Another important cultural organisation is the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which focuses on local art traditions and architecture in the nation's capital, Kabul.
At the Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs, particular attention is devoted to cultural heritage. The Taliban destroyed all works they considered un-Islamic. In March 2001, for example, they blew up the giant Buddhas in Bamiyan, triggering international disbelief and protests. The National Museum in Darulaman, which opened its doors in 1924, has also suffered from the violence of war. In May 1993, a missile hit the museum's roof. As a result, a fourth-century mural from the ancient Kushan city of Delbarjin-tepe in northern Afghanistan was destroyed. The museum was also pillaged, so that only a small part of the collection still remains.
Today attempts are being made to recover the heritage, albeit that the security situation does not always make repairs possible. Estimates indicate that nearly eighty percent of Afghanistan's ancient art has been stolen or damaged. And the pillaging continues. Unesco suspects that art thieves are active in more than one hundred locations of past archaeological finds throughout the country. The artefacts disappear to other countries via international networks.