Featuring 9 multidisciplinary artists who have continued to create through the humanitarian crisis: Ali Rahimi, ArtLords, Latifa Zafar Attaii, Lida Afghan, Mohsin Taasha, Morteza Herati, Naseer Turkmani, Rada Akbar, and Shamayel Shalizi 



(New York, NY) – PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) and Art at a Time Like This announce the launch of Before Silence: Afghan Artists in Exile, an online exhibition presenting the work of multidisciplinary Afghan artists who have continued to create through incredibly difficult and perilous circumstances.  

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August and the subsequent takeover by the Taliban, which has a long and brutal history of censoring artistic expression, many Afghan artists, including writers, musicians, filmmakers, and intellectuals, have been persecuted and targeted simply for being artists. 

Fearing for their lives, many artists have been forced to go into hiding, self-censor or destroy  their creative work, or flee the country, putting the future of the arts and culture in the country into question. 

Before Silence presents a powerful selection of works representative of the up and coming generation of Afghan artists who have continued to create and inspire amidst insecurity and humanitarian suffering. Through photographs, paintings, cartoons,  murals, and performances, this powerful exhibition offers a complex dialogue between artists, danger, deprivation and insecurity.

The artists featured in the exhibition are Ali Rahimi, ArtLords, Latifa Zafar Attaii, Lida Afghan, Mohsin Taasha, Morteza Herati, Naseer Turkmani, Rada Akbar, and Shamayel Shalizi.

“This exhibition is an effort to illustrate the livelihood of some of the artists and photographers who had to make a difficult decision to flee the country to safety, many leaving behind their loved ones, dreams and achievements,” said photojournalist Naseer Turkami whose series, Khuda Hafiz, is featured in Before Silence. “They now grapple with an uncertain future.”    

Some artists, such as Ali Rahimi and Latifa Zafar Attaii, who have relocated to Iran, are creating new pieces in more familiar, but still new, environments. Others, such as ArtLords, have had to retranslate their site-specific murals to an entirely new locale and culture. 

“I, using the very specified symbols of expression, picturize the current tumultuous world where all the people live under oppression and injustice,” said painter Mohsin Taasha, who has been in residence at Triangle France since September 2021. 

This is the beginning of an ongoing relationship between Art at a Time Like This, a nonprofit arts organization that provides a platform for free expression at times of crisis, and PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program at the leading human rights and literary organization dedicated to the field of artistic freedom of expression. 

Even before the takeover, numerous attacks across the country targeted cultural actors and venues in particular, and artists were threatened and even abducted or killed by the Taliban as they regained power. ARC has worked tirelessly to coordinate cross-organizational efforts – including facilitating evacuations and identifying paths out of the country, finding safe houses for individuals and families, and looking for options for financial assistance –  to assist Afghan artists and cultural practitioners, as well as provide digital security tips and resources to Afghans and to organizations typically not used to working with at-risk artists, and engage in public advocacy on behalf of Afghan artists.  

Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America, said: “Afghan artists have chosen not to remain silent, despite the unprecedented dangers they are facing, including threats to their lives and their families, simply because of their status as an artist or cultural professional. Those who have been able to escape must now navigate the difficult process of adjusting to the country where they have landed and rebuilt their creative practices despite challenges such as language and cultural barriers, psychological trauma, lack of funding, and fear for their friends and family who remain in Afghanistan. While we continue to support Afghan artists and advocate for their right to artistic freedom of expression, we are also honored to give them this platform to share their work and their words. We hope that people will take the time to engage with their work and think about what it means to be both Afghan and an artist at a time like this.”

Call for Action
Global recognition and attention is absolutely crucial to ensuring that Afghan artists get the support from governments and humanitarian organizations that they so desperately need. Many countries have a years-long backlog for visa processing and are not dedicating the time and resources needed to adequately respond to this crisis. With your support, we can fight for the rights and needs of Afghan artists and make sure that their plight is not forgotten amidst the 24-7 news cycle, the pandemic, and other emerging crises. We kindly invite you to write, share, post, and generally raise awareness about this exhibition using this social media kit.


Art at a Time Like This Inc., founded in March 2020 by Anne Verhallen and Barbara Pollack,  provides a platform for free expression to artists and curators of the 21st century,  through online and public exhibitions commenting on compelling social issues. ATLT believes that artists and creatives play an important role in raising awareness of public issues and providing ideas and solutions for a better future. With an audience of over 200,000 viewers reaching more than 100 countries,  ATLT has presented 12 exhibitions and 3 public art interventions in 18 months and its outdoor exhibition,  Ministry of Truth:1984/2020, was featured by the New York Times as “one of the most important art moments of 2020.”

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a project of PEN America, safeguards the right to artistic freedom of expression around the world and works to ensure that artists of all disciplines everywhere can live and work without fear. With a global network of more than 800 organizations providing crucial resources for artists and cultural practitioners at risk, ARC plays the critical role of liaising between threatened artists and the organizations that support them, raising awareness around threats to artistic freedom and the work of persecuted artists, and mobilizing arts and cultural institutions to play a more prominent role in assisting their field’s most vulnerable members. Since its inception, ARC has supported more than 500 artists from over 63 countries in receiving direct support, including fellowships and residencies, emergency funding, legal assistance, and advocacy, among others, from partner organizations. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC and read the Safety Guide for Artists, available in Spanish, English and French, to understand, navigate, and prepare for risk. 

Contacts: At Art at a Time Like This: Andy Cushman,

At PEN America: Suzanne Trimel,