Exploring Afghanistan’s Forgotten and Vulnerable Local Dances

Asia Culture House developed this project to identify forgotten local dances and dances that are prone to be forgotten. The project served as an awareness raising campaign on urgency and need to revive and retain local dances. The project had three main components and was successfully implemented by Asia Culture House, in collaboration with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization and with Silk Road Cultural Initiatives.


A. Identification of at Risk Local Dances:

A qualitative research of local dances by Porsesh Research and Studies Organization through a methodology that comprised key expert interviews, key informant interviews and literature review in multiple locations enabled the project team to identify 5 local dances that have already been forgotten.

The Initial literature review and interviews with five experts were undertaken during the first phase of the research, in order to learn the names of the five most vulnerable local dances. This was followed by a thorough literature review of the five identified dances, as well as with nine in-depth interviews with experts, to bring further insight about what the dances entailed. However, to allow for accurate representation, the five dances were selected to cover some of the country’s diverse ethnic groups (Pashtun, Uzbek and Hazara), and dances are further stratified into the categories of male and female performers, as well as dances performed by both sexes.

The research team identified five local dances which have been forgotten due to conflict in the past decades which were: Peshpoo, Achochy, Ghomborak, Khatak and Lezgi Dances. These dances were Afghanistan’s sub-cultures and intangible cultural heritage of three zones of the country, north, South and central of Afghanistan. Three of these dances were from Central Afghanistan and one was from South East of the Country. Another one was from the North of Afghanistan. Detailed analysis of the research findings is available at Porsesh Research and Studies Organization’s website: http://www.porseshresearch.org/exploring-afghanistans-forgotten-vulnerable-local-dances/


B. Revival and Re-enforcement of Local Dances

  1. Local Dance Training Classes 

The Project team, assisted by Local persons who are well-aware of performance know-how of a particular dance, trained 10 performers. Asia Culture House hired trainers and trainees to organize local dance classes for “Exploring Afghanistan’s Forgotten Local Dance Project”. The training classes were conducted two hours per day, three days per week for one month and six hours per day, seven days per week for two weeks.

It is expected that the dancers will continue practicing these dances in social ceremonies to further popularize them. They have been highly encouraged, to do so.

Photo Credit: BBC Pashto

2. Afghanistan’s Local Dances Festival

Asia Culture House organized the festival on 24 January 2019 in Queen Palace, Bagh-e-Babur and 300 persons participated at the festival.

In the festival, eight local dances were performed which are Khatak, Sargala Aghay Negar, Peshpoo, Achochay, Ghomborak, Attan, Sama and Chob Bazy. These local dances were performed by more than 45 dancers and assistants/support team members.

Twelve girls performed 4 local female dances and 6 male artists of Khatak group performed two local dances. Sama Group and Attan Group were hired who performed two other local dances—Attan and Sama. In addition to these, two live musics were performed by Shahmama Artistic Group and Hussain Sina.

In addition to the 300 direct audience, millions of Afghans could be potential indirect beneficiaries—being on the receiving end of these media broadcasts (Tolo News, 1tv, Pajhwok, BBC, Daily Etilaat and etc.  Moreover, the training classes were also covered by media and BBC Pashto, Persian publicized the training classes.

3. Documentary Video Recording and Editing 

The Film Maker worked regularly, throughout the project duration, to record local interviews, trainings and dance performances in the festival. He has already recorded and collected different sequences of interview, training and performances by the locals, training and dance performances. It is anticipated that the documentary is 25 minutes long.

Documentation of the performances through the documentary film will re-enforce the local dances. Local dances serve to bring members of communities together. They contribute in decreasing stresses of everyday life. Revival and re-enforcement of local dances further contributes in preserving history and cultural heritage that links Afghans to a greater historical memory.

Raising awareness about local dances can promote national identity as well as attachment to endogenous values in Afghanistan. It keeps local cultural identities alive.

Photo Credits:

Featured Photo Credit: Silk Road Cultural Initiative’s Facebook Page


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