Phil Borges
 

Exhibition Pieces
The Face of Pakistan
March 7 - 30, 2002
(see press release for opening & lecture details)
  • Exhibition Pieces
  • Artist Statement
  • Press Release


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    Abi Gul 7
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Abi Gul's father spent eleven years fighting in the Pakistan courts to keep the Kalash valleys from being logged. For the Kalash, who have an animist cosmology, trees are very sacred. Three years ago Abi Gul's father was killed by a bomb that was thrown into their little two room home. Her uncle continued the court case and finally won the judgment. Abi Gul was very serious and quiet. Very diligent, she stayed by my side and assisted me as I photographed her friends and relatives in her small village.

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    Gulistan 14
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Like many Kalash children, Gulistan carries her pet mynah bird on her shoulder wherever she goes. Living in the valleys of the Hindu Kush near the border of Afghanistan, the Kalash are an "island of animism" surrounded by the Islamic culture. Extremely bright and an excellent student, Gulistan is in grade five and loves Math, Science, and English. Her father has fought for years to keep the sacred Kalash valleys intact and free from logging interests.

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    Khosi Newas 78
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Khosi is one of the five remaining Kasis (priests) of the indigenous group known as the Kalash. As a Kasi he is responsible for making sure the Kalash traditions and cosmology get passed down to the next generation. Each school day morning Khosi walks to the one room school house and spends an hour teaching the children about the sacred Kalash traditions. He said there are over fifty generations of stories that need to be passed down.

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    Marshella 30
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Marshella is one of the three remaining Kalash Dehars (Shaman). He was fourteen when the spirits first started appearing to him. He told me that it was very frightening in the beginning and that he didn't know what was happening to him. His father, a Dehar who also had his first visions at thirteen, coached Marshella through the initial stages. Today when people come to Marshella for healing he says he can "see" their problem and the reason for it before they even say anything to him.
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    Nadir Khan 70+
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Nadir Khan was thirteen years old when he first started seeing spirits. Shortly afterward he lost his ability to speak–a condition that lasted two years. He said his mother and father were very frightened. Once his speech finally returned, he was able to forecast natural events like earthquakes and severe storms. In the Kalash culture a person comes to be recognized as a shaman mainly by their prophetic ability. It is considered that this gift often runs in families. Nadir Khan was able to comfort and mentor his son Marshella, when at fourteen, Marshella began hearing voices and seeing spirits.
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    Mezail Shah 7, Rafiulla 9
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Mezail Shah was stung near his eye while taking care of his honeybees. Among the Kalash only the men are allowed to harvest and eat honey. In this patriarchal society, the sacred realm is associated with men and goats. The bees are believed to be male and the all male beehive is not allowed to be contaminated by women. Women are also not allowed to eat the meat of a male goat or visit the 'pure realm' of the high pastures where the goats are grazed in the summer months.
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    Milkhunzar 12
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Kalash tradition dictates that women retreat to a hut called the Bashali for five days during their menstrual cycle. All births take place in the Bashali and only women are allowed inside. Milkhunzar had just returned home after her first stay in the Bashali. Immediately upon leaving the hut the women must wash in the river, change their clothes, and rebraid their hair before returning home. The tattoos on Milkhunzar's face are made from mulberry juice and the eyeliner is finely ground goats horn that is mixed with water.

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    Ogalia 3
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan


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    Puristan Shah 10
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Puristan Shah was the first person I met when I arrived in the valley where the Kalash reside. Using sign language he introduced himself and immediately began to show me around and introduce me to his family and friends. Everyone was very open and friendly. Later my interpreter told me that there is virtually no crime among the Kalash. In the rare event that someone should steal or show disrespect for the culture, they are confronted by the whole village and made to provide a male goat to be sacrificed and eaten at a community gathering.

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    Razia 12
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Razia, like many Kalash children, carries her pet mynah birds on her shoulder where ever she goes. The Kalash have a Buddhist like reverence for all living things. Razia was carefully rescuing some moths that were stuck in a puddle while I photographed her. Every other night Razia and twenty to thirty of her unmarried girl friends would climb to the highest knoll in their village and sing and dance under the bright stars until one or two in the morning.

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    Yamir Gul 5
    Rumbur Valley, Pakistan

    Yamir Gul spends most days helping her mother irrigate their cornfield. The Kalash have a very intricate system of mountainside irrigation channels and tree-trunk aqua ducts to bring the glacial water of the Hindu Kush to their fields. Yamir Gul and her mother were using sticks to cut channels and direct the water to each and every corn plant. At a distance she looked like any five year-old playing in the mud and water, but as I watched I became amazed at how accurately she directed the water to the base of every plant. Among the Kalash the women tend the crops and the men are in charge of animal husbandry and preparation of dairy products

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    Ambrenn 8
    Altit Village, Hunza, Pakistan

    Ambrenn and her three brothers and sisters all attend school. Even though the overall literacy rate in Pakistan is 32% for girls and 56% among boys, in the northern district of Hunza where Ambrenn lives 100% of boys and girls attend school. This is largely due to the attitude toward female education among the Ismailis (the most liberal of the Muslim sects in Pakistan) and the financial support for schools and health care contributed by the Ismaili leader, the Aga Khan.
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    Shama Ibrahim 71
    Altit Village, Hunza, Pakistan

    Shama Ibrahim is one of the remaining Bitan (shaman) in the Hunza Valley of Northern Pakistan. At fifteen he was in the high pastures herding his goats when he heard voices. As he turned around he saw a group of spirits in a circle. He immediately fainted. When he regained consciousness it was dark and his goats were gone. Shaking with fear, he felt a power move him down the very steep slope of the mountain and back to his village. Today he is recognized as a very powerful healer. One item from a patient placed under his pillow will produce a dream in which he sees the patient's problem and its solution.
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    Nosheen 75++
    Karimabad, Pakistan

    Nosheen is the sister of the Bitan, Shama Ibrahim. She said when Ibrahim came off the mountain after his first vision everyone thought he was drunk. Only his grandfather recognized that he was a Bitan. Soon Ibrihim's predictions caught the attention of the Mir (Mayor) of Hunza. Ibrahim has since healed hundreds of people and accurately predicted countless events. He precisely predicted the building of the Karakoram Highway four years before it was even planned.

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    Raknuma
    Karimabad, Pakistan

    Raknuma is well known through out the Hunza valley for her extraordinary weavings. Her work is gaining popularity in cities as far away as Islamabad. Typically she spends all day in the fields and works on her weavings in the evenings. She was cutting alfalfa by hand when I met her. Every married woman in Hunza stitches for herself her family's design on a pillbox hat –a tradition handed down from mother to daughter.
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    Alipsha 98
    Karimabad, Pakistan

    Even though Alipsha lives alone, his thirty-five grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren make sure he is never lonely. He lives in the Hunza valley where the inhabitants are well known for their longevity. To this day Alipsha still spends several hours working in the fields. Although he has always worked as a farmer, Alipsha is a highly respected Trangfa (a mediator). He said that most of the arguments he was called in to settle revolved around water rights. His grandson told me that Alipsha kept many men from spilling each other's blood.
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    Bequim 8
    Paralak, Pakistan

    Bequim's mother was one of the three thousand remaining indigenous people in Pakistan known as the Kalash. The Kalash belong to one of the only remaining non-Islamic cultures in Pakistan. Nine years ago she converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim man and moved away from her home in the remote Kalash Valleys. In their new village it is not allowed for boys and girls to attend school together. Since there is only one school in the village, and since boys are given preference when it comes to education, Bequim will not be allowed to attend school.

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    Bibi Afshan 9
    Gulmit, Pakistan

    Bibi Afshan lives with her seven brothers and sisters close to the Afghanistan border high up in the Karakoram Range of Northern Pakistan. Like most people in her small village she belongs to a liberal Muslim sect called the Ismailis. In contrast to the more conservative Muslim sects in Pakistan, women are seen regularly in public with their faces unveiled. Like most Ismaili girls, Bibi Afshan was encouraged to go to school. She said her favorite subject is English.
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    Bibi Gul 7, Sabira 11, Sakina 12
    Shandur Pass, Pakistan

    Bibi Gul and her friends were spending the summer camping with their families on the 12,200-foot Shandur Pass in the rugged Hindu Kush of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. They had come up from their tiny village to find fresh pastures for their goats. The girls were sitting by a river talking and joking while doing the wash for the families in their camp. Being Ismailis they are permitted to show their faces and are allowed to go to school.

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    Bibi Nasib 70+-
    Hassani Village, Hunza, Pakistan

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    Fatima


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    Hamida 7
    Bumburet Valley, Pakistan

    Hamida belongs to a group of tribal people called the Nuristanis who were conquered by the Afghan Armies in 1900 and forced to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in favor of Islam. Today the Nuristanis are extremely devout Muslims who live primarily in Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range. Considered to be very fierce they were the first to revolt against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978. In contrast to their Kalash neighbors, the Nuristani girls cover their faces in public and usually are not allowed to go to school.

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    Nasir 45
    Bumburet Valley, Pakistan

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    Salimamat 60++, Mamat 65
    Bumburet Valley, Pakistan


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    Naigiblhha 30
    Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

    Naigiblhha is an economic refugee from Afghanistan. He crosses the border from his home in Kabul once a year to work with a road crew on the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan. His wage of $1.25 a day is a relative fortune in Afghanistan. The Karakoram Highway was built along the caravan routes of the old Silk Road used by Chinese pilgrims over one thousand years ago. The construction, a joint venture between China and Pakistan, lasted from 1966 to 1982 and cost one life for every kilometer of highway completed.

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    Nowshad Bibi 12, Yasim 2
    Soor Laspur, Pakistan

    Nowshad Bibi's village lies at 9,000 feet in the Hindu Kush mountain range in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Many believe that the inhabitants of these remote mountain villages were descendents of the invading armies of Alexander the Great. Recently, many Afghan refugees have passed through Nowshad Bibi's village as they crossed this historic mountain barrier that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan to seek employment and escape the Taliban government.

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    Razwan 70
    Soor Laspur, Pakistan

    Razwan has been a farmer all his life and has never ventured further than thirty miles from his little village in the Hindu Kush Mountains. He said, "I have no reason to leave. I'm surrounded by the people who love me". He has six children, twenty-four grandchildren and one great-grand child. As I sat with him looking out over his luminescent green valley flanked by glacier capped mountains and listening to the distant waterfalls, I understood.
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    Rizwan Shah 95
    Passu, Pakistan

    As a young man Rizwan Shah would carry mail and other goods by foot over the 14,000-foot Khunjerab Pass into China on the old Silk Road. He said avalanches were a constant danger and in the early days his only foot wear were Ibex skins that he tied to his feet. Known as one of the fastest couriers in Hunza, Rizwan Shah would complete the round trip in about 30 days. In order to minimize his load he carried very little food. To fight off hunger he would tie a sash tightly around his waist with a stone next to his stomach.
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    Shida 9
    Nuristani Village, Pakistan


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    Zarim 65+
    Besham, Pakistan

    Zarim has been an onion farmer his entire life. Unlike many farmers in the south of Pakistan, Zarim owns the land he farms. Although he is considered fairly wealthy because he owns four water buffalo, he says there are some years that he does not make any money and he can barely support his expanding family. Zarim has four boys two girls and four grandchildren and had just married a 37 year-old woman as a second wife.







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