By Andrea Perdomo
On Oct. 26, the first floor of SIPA bustled with lively conversation during the opening of its newest exhibition, “Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan.” Dozens of spectators were treated to the sounds of live traditional Afghan music while feasting their eyes on the vibrant pottery, jewelry, and woodwork created by the Afghan artisans on display.
The exhibition came to fruition months after SIPA’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, Pedro Botta, visited an exhibit of the same name at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. The exhibit highlighted the art and culture of Afghanistan.
Botta felt that it was important to share a positive narrative stemming from the Middle East with the FIU community. He also spoke with SIPA Dean John F. Stack and the founders of “Turquoise Mountain” to make the exhibition happen.
“There were a few nights that I wondered maybe I had gotten myself in too deep and worried if we would be able to pull it off, but we persevered and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out,” he said with a broad smile.
A central piece to the exhibit is a hand-woven rug that the SIPA school has named “Green School Peace Carpet.” It resides on a pedestal made by the exhibit’s curator, sophomore BFA student Mario Daniel Alvarado. The carpet’s earthy tones and intricate details can be seen from the entrance of the exhibit and is an immediate eye-grabber.
In addition to showing visitors how the exotic items on display are made, the exhibit presents spices and minerals that are unique to the country and gives visitors some historical context of Afghanistan. It provides a smorgasbord of information in a visually appealing way, according to spectators.
People huddled around a television screen, watching short videos on how each of the objects on display was made. In a speech that he called the “rolling credits at the end of a movie,” Botta praised Alvarado for curating the SIPA exhibit and said he couldn’t have done it without him.
Alvarado said that his goal was not only to enchant visitors with the objects on display but to also educate them on Afghan culture. Accompanying each item on display is a short video or text featuring the artist explaining how the item was created.
The items are installed on vibrant turquoise-colored walls and are each accompanied by a written synopsis or short, silent video on the artist and the method used to create the featured piece. The setup allows space for the art to be viewed without obstructing a fellow observer from reviewing the informational aspect.
“I was just blown away at the story. It was just a refreshingly positive story coming out of the Muslim world. A positive story coming out of Afghanistan, a place that we associate with war, with devastation, with all types of negative things. Unfortunately, that is the perception we get from that country from the mainstream media and to see something good actually come out of Afghanistan in this way, I thought it was a really important story that the world needs to hear, at least our students, need to hear,” said Botta.
Visitors gathered in small groups throughout the exhibit to view the videos and the halls buzzed with conversation.
“This is exactly what I wanted, for the exhibit to start conversation,” said Alvarado.
The exhibit will be open during SIPA business hours and will be open to the FIU community and general public until June 2018.