Between 15,000 and 19,000 Afghan civilians have died in the war in Afghanistan, according to figures from www.costsofwar.org and the United Nations’ 2012 report on civilian casualties. The war has lasted for more than a decade.
Now, a month and a half after President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of 34,000 soldiers from Afghanistan by February 2014, an art exhibit examining the civilian costs paid by Afghanistan’s people during the long campaign will be featured at Butler University.
“Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan” is a project conceived in 2009 by the American Friends Service Committee, an organization formed by Quakers during World War I to foster peace and justice.
The AFSC called upon American artists to donate cloth murals to commemorate the civilian casualties in Afghanistan. In 2010, according to the project’s website, these murals were combined with drawings from Afghan students in Kabul to complete the exhibit. The murals have since traveled across the U.S., including to Indianapolis in 2011.
Senior political science and international studies major Kelly Hamman has been coordinating the project’s presentation at Butler since January. Hamman is an intern with the Indiana Peacebuilding Program, a part of AFSC.
“As Americans, when we think about the war we have a tendency to think about our American servicemen and women and maybe not so much about civilians,” Hamman said. “It’s important to start thinking about the civilian experience as we try to work to rebuild Afghanistan.”
The event—which satisfies a Butler Community Requirement for students who attend—is part of Butler Peace Week, which starts on Friday and features films, prayer, discussions and other events.
Students from the “Introduction to Peace Studies” class will serve as guides for the exhibit.
“(The exhibit) is important because we spend a lot of money on the war and it’s removed from our consciousness because it’s overseas in the Middle East,” Hamman said. “Some people might be aware of it, but I think it’s not maybe as important to us as it should be. Going to the exhibit helps you to get a bigger perspective of the world and, specifically, of this conflict that we’ve been involved with.”
Hamman said the murals’ topics range from depicting costs of war, including a few on drone strikes, to depicting the potential for peace.
Hamman said she finds many of the murals powerfully impacting, especially a piece called “Phoenix/Dove” by Dara Wells-Hajjar. The piece is inspired by Meena, who founded the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.
Hamman, who studied the group at Butler, said the mural helps people think about women’s experience in Afghanistan, the pressures that are put on them and the potential for peace.
Mindy Dunn of the Efroymson Center said she hopes students and community members who have never been to the new building will see the space.
She said the center has mainly been used for MFA classes in creative writing and now, with this exhibit, will begin to open up to the campus in different ways.
“It’s also a great way for (the center) to be part of Peace Week,” Dunn said.
She hopes the murals serve as “creative inspiration” for the writing classes that meet in the center each week.
“Windows and Mirrors”
Where: Efroymson Center for Creative Writing (across from BUPD)
When: Friday through April 14
The exhibit will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.
For more information go to the exhibit’s Facebook page, “Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan at Butler University!”