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The Phenomenon of the Sunflower Bookcase

Around eight years ago, sitting in an old fort in Kabul we designed a work that since then seems to have taken a life of its own. At the time we were both still in Kabul and had been asked to design a new work for an exhibition at the Leighton House Museum here in London. We designed a book case inspired by the concept of shamsa or sunburst that was both functional and decorative, with the aim of showcasing various traditional Afghan woodworking skills. The idea was that it would be appropriate for a ceremonial space rather than a private house. We are told that the original piece eventually found a permanent home at The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

A Life of Its Own

Several months after the exhibition we were approached by several clients from various parts of Afghanistan - some of them famous politicians - who commissioned different versions of the bookcase. One of these commissioned pieces has in fact ended up in a very publicly visible venue. Those who follow the politics of Afghanistan, both through the conventional media as well as the social media (in particular Twitter), will be familiar with the bookcase in the backdrop of photo ops of various dignitaries visiting Kabul.

What not many people know, however, is that since the middle of 2014 hardly a few weeks pass by without us receiving a image of someone , somewhere in Afghanistan who has "replicated" our bookcase for their own ceremonial space. Back then sitting in that dusty room in that old fort conceiving of the idea, we couldn't possibly have imagined that this particular work would inspire so many people and become so well known in contemporary Afghanistan that nowadays we are often introduced at "the people behind the bookcase"... Something we obviously enjoy thoroughly.

We have only recently started collecting the images that we are regularly sent. Most of these are photos of private individuals, so we have tried to anonymized them. We'll add more images as they trickle in.


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