Saturday, May 19, 2007

Beauty in Afghanistan

We have the rare coincidence of having a new book and a new video telling the same tale: the founding of the Kabul Beauty School in 2003. Deborah Rodriguez, a hairdresser from the Midwest, went to Afghanistan in the spring of 2002 as part of a humanitarian mission. She was surprised to find out that in addition to medical supplies and food, one of the things that Afghan women desperately wanted was beauty. Before the Taliban regime cracked down on anything they deemed immoral, the women of Afghanistan patronized beauty parlors the same way we do: perms, manicures, waxing, and makeovers. But during the oppression of the Taliban, the training, tools, and skills from these Afghan beauty parlors disappeared. So Rodriguez decided to help bring them back. In her book Kabul Beauty School, she relates her experiences and shares the stories of the women she came to know through the school. The DVD The Beauty Academy of Kabul tells much the same story, but through the eyes of an outsider. The DVD also focuses more on the Afghan women themselves. Both are fascinating, and allow the women of Afghanistan to have an identity of their own. By talking about their experiences, thoughts and hopes, the Afghan women show their audience that they are individual people with unique personalities worthy of respect. And how beautiful is that?

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