Silk Road Conversations with Omaid Sharifi (Artivist)

Silk Road Interviews are inspired by Silk Road Week, an annual event conceived by Chinese Museums Association, International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles (IASSRT), and China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. The theme for #SilkRoadWeek 2020 is “The Silk Roads: Mutual Learning for Future Collaboration.” We thank IN ZHEJIANG, our media partner in China (on Facebook).

Name : Omaid Sharifi | Country : Afghanistan | Years Active : 2014 – Present | Website : ArtLords

Mahdi Zahak, (ArtLords), Acrylic on paper and canvas, 2020 – courtesy Omaid Sharifi

Q – How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about your field?

ArtLords is a global grassroots movement of artists, artivists and volunteers motivated by the desire to pave the way for social transformation and behavioral change through employing the soft power of art and culture as a non-intrusive approach.

Q  What inspired you to become a curator and artivist?

Initially, I was inspired by two of my good friends Kabir Mokamel and Lima Ahmad. Also, by witnessing and acknowledging the potential and desire for change in young population of Afghanistan and the world to address concerns and create solutions based on alternative ways of thinking. I wanted to find solutions in the absolute center of the problem itself.

ArtLords, Kabul, Afghanistan, Courtesy Omaid Sharifi

Q – Why did you choose this particular field of art?

ArtLords realized the opportunity for converting the negative psychological impact of blast walls on the people of Kabul into a positive visual experience. By placing issues of concerning ordinary citizens on the blast walls, ArtLords has been enabled to create a space where social issues can be expressed in a visual manner and discussed in the street, where the open art workshops take place.

Mural by Omaid Sharifi (ArtLords), courtesy O. Sharifi

Q – What is the most memorable object you’ve painted, or worked with?

The ‘I see you’ mural against corrupt Government officials in Afghanistan.

A pair of eyes in the many main streets of Afghanistan look at the corruption people and telling them and we know that you stealing, you cannot hide from us and God.

Art by Omaid Sharifi (ArtLords), courtesy O. Sharifi

Q – Do you recall when was the first time you heard of the phrase “Silk Road”? What was your first impression of it?

I heard the word “Silk Road” when I was 3 or 4 years old from my father who was telling me stories about the caravans and the transportation routes.    

Q – What is your most memorable experience of travelling along the Silk Road?

The most memorable experience is traveling to Bamyan in the central highlands of Afghanistan which was part of the Silk Road too and meeting my wife.

Q – Which city or region along the Silk Road are you looking forward to visit, for the first time?

I would love to visit all of them but the priority is Kashgar.

Q – If it were possible, what historic figure would you like to meet? Why?

Martin Luther King Jr. I believe this is a historic moment for the fight against racism and discrimination based on the color of your skin.

Q – What movie best depicts a historic or aesthetic aspect of the Silk Road?

The Silk Road – a documentary made in 1980s.

Q – What music or soundtrack most embodies the sound of the Silk Road for you?

The Silk Road Ensemble.  


*  John Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., 2002, Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, Collection Minneapolis Museum of Art

Courtesy Omaid Sharifi (ArtLords)

Q – What fundamental change(s) in your work do you anticipate in the post-pandemic world?

I hope people are more compassionate and kind and they pay attention to art and cultural projects.

Q – What modern day cultural trend (sports, music, art, architecture) has its roots in the Silk Road – that majority do not know?

Afghanistan’s Lapis Lazuli is used in many paintings including The world’s most expensive painting to sell at auction is Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450.3 million on November 15, 2017 at Christie’s.

Art by Omaid Sharifi (ArtLords), courtesy O. Sharifi