By Anna Wilding on April 3, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC (Herald de Paris) — ¬†Lapis Bistro, in the Adams Morgan District of DC, is a fine dining Afghan restaurant owned by the Popal family. It is run by Omar Popal and is one of the best smart and casual restaurants DC. ¬†On a recent warm spring Friday night, proof of the cache Lapis has in the neighborhood, was the line out its door. ¬†Next door to Lapis, a small space, a downstairs basement venue that Lapis makes available for art exhibits and film evenings.
This past Friday night was no exception with a dual art exhibit and film screening put together by DC attorney John Hanshaw, a local film group facilitator, in aid of Afghan Girls Education. Mr. Hanshaw met, on his travels around DC, a colorful and vigorous lawyer by the name of Henry Lloyd . ¬†In 1964, ¬†as a young USAID ( U.S. Agency for International Development) officer working on the Afghan Desk in Washington, Mr. Lloyd spent over three months, in winter and spring, traveling around Afghanistan. In addition to preparing economic surveys for USAID, Mr Lloyd photographed, for his own records, everything there was to photograph. Thankfully, he had a good eye, as the resulting slides are stunning, and capture the heart and soul of the Afghan people at the time. Not only that, they are a solid document of the region before tensions occurred on a global scale.
Photographs of women in tents, men, children abounded the walls of the small basement space. Iconic photographs of the 1700 year old Buddhas of Baiyan that were torn down in conflict by the Taliban in 2001 – bought our minds immediately into the strife and conflict in the region in the present day.
1964 was relatively peaceful time in Afghan history and Mr. Lloyd’s photographs reflect that peace. Even the military in Mr. Lloyds’s photographs look relatively relaxed. In 1964 relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were fairly amicable following the decision of the government of Afghanistan to deal with the Pakistani dispute only through diplomatic negotiations and to carry on normal relations with Pakistan in other respects. It is also the year a more modern Afghan Constitution was drawn up that remained in place until 1977. The 1964 Constitution was drafted by a committee of foreign-educated Afghans, of which, to this day, there are many worldwide, and the primary goals of the Constitution were to prepare the government and the people for gradual movement toward democracy and socio-economic modernization. Innovations, included a bill or rights for all Afghans, explicitly including women. Fast forward on, to the present day and Afghanistan is still in need, and many groups, outreach to help educate those in the population, those who were and have been basically left out of the education loop, by circumstance.
The photographs also capture the innate beauty of the landscape, the towering mountains, a green leafy tree in an arid desert. The photographs are unique for their time and place,
I conducted an extensive sit down interview with Mr. Lloyd and his evident passion for the region remains. Mr. Lloyd also recognized that the photographs had a more “weighty” historic value now, given the recent conflicts in the area.
One thing that was striking, comparing photos from then and now, was the fierce independent spirit of the Afghan people. The Afghan people have a strong spirit of identity, and sense of belonging to a landscape, over centuries, that has not changed much.
We are planning a book of Mr. Lloyd’s work, so that ¬†many more may experience the journey of this incredible land and its history.
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