Exhibit reveals IU’s relationship with Afghanistan
By Justin Park
“Indiana in Afghanistan; Afghanistan in Indiana” features a number of historic Afghan items obtained by Lilly Library curator Jim Canary alongside photographs taken by Wissing when he was embedded with the Indiana National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team in 2009.
For 10 weeks, Wissing followed the team throughout the volatile eastern Afghan province of Khost, which the troops nicknamed “Indian country.”
“It was tough,” Wissing said. “You’d be traveling across mountainous terrain at altitudes between six and 12 thousand feet in 120 degree heat, all while carrying 50 to 60 pounds of stuff. You had to be able to keep up with the security team, because if you couldn’t go further, they couldn’t go further, so you were expected to be able to do your part.”
Wissing created the traveling exhibit “Indiana in Afghanistan” with the photos he took and first displayed the exhibit at the Indiana State Fair. When he approached IU with the intent of displaying his exhibit, the school decided to incorporate its history with Afghanistan into Wissing’s work.
The exhibit “offers a glimpse into some good things happening in Afghanistan because of people taking an interest,” Canary said in a press release.
In addition to Wissing’s photographs, items on display include artifacts from the Lilly Library, Mathers Museum, University Archives and Archives of Traditional Music, such as instruments, letters of correspondence between IU and Kabul University, rare recordings of traditional Afghan music and even a rare photograph of Herman B Wells wearing a fez during a visit to Kabul.
“It’s interesting to see the historic side of Afghanistan’s relationship juxtaposed with modern events,” said graduate student Ryan Brasher, who had previously lived in Afghanistan while working with a non-governmental organization. “I had heard that IU had been working with Indiana National Guard’s ADT, teaching them Pashto and Afghan culture and politics, but I didn’t know that IU’s relationship with Kabul University stemmed for almost 55 years.”
“Indiana in Afghanistan; Afghanistan in Indiana” will be on display until Sept. 24th, after which it will move on to Vincennes University.