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ANCIENT LAND, NEW IDEAS

The 2005 provincial elections in Afghanistan presented a big civic education challenge. It was the second time ever that democratic elections had been held in the country. Between 60–70% of the population are illiterate, several languages are spoken, there are at least five major ethnic groups with little in common, and orthodox Islam has a taboo on representation of the human form. In addition; women and men must not be portrayed together, many cultural sensitivities exist, and there is no distribution infrastructure in remote districts. We had a tight three-month time-frame.

Consulting for the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), I worked with a small team of Afghan artists to produce civic education materials. Illustration was the best way to depict people as it is less specific than photography. Information leaflets were made for illiterate audiences. Colour sketches were tested through focus groups representing all sectors of society. Hand calligraphy was created, and art re-tested. Art was sent to print in Kabul, Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow. All materials shown here are in Dari language. A Pashtu version was also produced for every piece.

The scope was wide; we also created several billboards that were erected country-wide, adapted a public outreach radio show into a weekly comic strip for the newspapers, animated our characters into several television ads and made two pictorial training manuals for illiterate electoral workers.