In 2017 I visited Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan whilst working with Skateistan, the non-profit which empowers children through skateboarding and education. It was during a more peaceful time in the country, and I felt incredibly lucky to be given the chance to visit and experience the culture and to meet the people. I was inspired by the resilience, positivity and strength of the women I met there and the girls I skated with. As humans we are all the same, but born into very different circumstances.
I met Mubaraka there, and we bonded over a shared love of sports and photography. It was January and I remember the clear crisp days, taking photos in the fresh air of the Skate School garden, and playing basketball in the sports hall at lunch, or football outside. Mubaraka had been working with Skateistan since around 2013.
“When I was in Afghanistan, I always tried to photograph people who showed the new face of Afghanistan or people who are trying to make a difference”
Originally from Daykundi in central Afghanistan, Mubaraka is part of the Hazaras ethnic group who are mostly Shia muslim. In 2019 alongside her work at Skateistan and her adventuring (more to come on this) she also started her journey as a photographer, with her beautiful shots posted up on Instagram (@mubaraka_mohammadi) for us to see. Her photography and perspective captures a side of the country you may never have seen before.
“When I was in Afghanistan, I always tried to photograph people who showed the new face of Afghanistan or people who are trying to make a difference through what they are doing,” she explains. “For example, the new generation who were trying to go forwards not backwards.”
Voted one of the most difficult places to grow up as a girl, it is women like Mubaraka who brought so many opportunities for young girls and women in Afghanistan; not only through her work at Skateistan but her creativity as a photographer. As a Skateistan Educator, in 2020 she moved to Bamyan, the largest town in the central Afghanistan region of Hazarajatin, to help open the new Skate School, something which is now on pause (you can read more about what happened to Skateistan here).
“Everything was fine, we all lived in peace, at least in Bamyan. Although war was raging in most areas, we never imagined that the Taliban would one day take control of Afghanistan.” she says. “The children were going to school, the people were all busy with their daily chores, and as the weather was getting cold, the athletes gradually began to prepare for winter sports.”
“Everything was fine, we all lived in peace, at least in Bamyan. Although war was raging in most areas, we never imagined that the Taliban would one day take control”
In February 2021, she shared some stunning shots of the snowy mountains and skiing in Bamyan. Glossy ice blue lochs, ice skating, snow covered crags, and stark bare trees in winter landscapes. As someone living in Scotland, I could relate to these views but knowing they were in Afghanistan, captured by a local female photographer friend, made them all the more special.
“I like to photograph nature, to travel to beautiful and pristine places in the world and take photos,” she says, with the hills of Bamyan in her mind. The valley that Bamyan sits in is cradled between the parallel mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and the Koh-i-Baba. Mountains cover ninety percent of the province, and the cold, long winter, lasting for six months brings temperatures somewhere between three and twenty degrees celsius below zero.