About the Artists


          Shela Qamer studied art in Karachi before emigrating from Pakistan, and continued her studies at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., after arriving in the United States. Her work represents a variety of styles and subjects, including calligraphy, architectural images, and abstract paintings. She is active in Muslim women artists organizations and in interfaith art projects, working with non-Muslim artists in the hope that coming together to create and learn from art can bring together people of different beliefs and communities. Qamer lives in Vienna, Virginia.


           Murtaza Pardais was a prominent and prolific artist and professor of fine arts at Kabul University for twelve years until much of the university was destroyed, as well as his home, in the devastating civil war between different mujahideen factions fighting for control of the capital. Salvaging some but not all of the artwork that had been stored in his home, he and his family fled to Pakistan, where they remained for seven years before emigrating in 2000 as refugees to the United States -- again bringing with them several hundred works painted in Kabul and during his years in Pakistan. In the United States, the family lived for brief periods in Chicago and Cleveland and then settled in late 2001 in Rochester, NY, where they now live. Throughout, Pardais never stopped painting. After arriving in America, he recalls in A Diary on Canvas, the book he coauthored with his son Shansab, "I was unemployed, sick, and poor. But even with these problems, I did not leave the pen, brush, and canvas. I continued to paint all day and night as I thought about my compatriots and the world." His works, painted in many different styles, are a visual record of the violence and destruction he and his country experienced for many years, but also document peaceful scenes from better times in Afghanistan and from his new home in the United States. They reflect, Shansab wrote in the introduction to the Diary, the artist's ultimate wish: "eventually Murtaza Pardais hoped to inspire peace through his paintings."