How One Afghan Woman Is Embracing Her Traditional Dress

Lema Afzal uses Instagram to share her colorful culture.

Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

Lema Afzal started her Instagram account showcasing herself wearing traditional Afghan dress back in 2016. The vibrant pieces—mostly dresses—come in an almost psychedelic melange of reds, purples, and greens with rich embroideries and, sometimes, coins and beading. The 25-year-old immigrated to Belgium with her family from her native Kabul when she was only four years old, fleeing Taliban rule. While Afzal had been uploading images of herself in radiant dresses for years, her page started to gain a large following after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in late August.

Afghan women on social media around the world began to speak out against Taliban rule and post images of themselves in their traditional ethnic clothing with the hashtag #donttouchmyclothes, an initiative started by ​​Dr. Bahar Jalali, a former history professor at the American University in Afghanistan in mid-September. Afzal began using the hashtag on Afghanistan’s Independence Day on August 19, when she posted a slideshow of herself in different renditions of Afghan dress.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetPhoto: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

Afzal, who is currently getting her master’s in business communication at KU Leuven in Antwerp, became more and more interested in Afghan clothing and her family’s heritage after attending her relatives’ weddings as a child. Wedding guests traditionally perform the attan, a celebratory dance that follows the rhythmic beats of the tabla drum and allows the traditional dress to open up as the dancer twirls. “It was fascinating to me. The clothing is very bright, vibrant, and colorful. It has bells and coins and all sorts of details,” she says. “It is very busy, but it makes sense, and it has harmony.” Inspired, Afzal began asking her father, who traveled to Afghanistan a few times a year, to bring back dresses for her to wear. “I am dedicated to my culture, and I feel connected with my roots with the clothing and the jewelry,” says Afzal. “It is very near to my heart.”

This story originally appeared on: Vogue - Author:Liana Satenstein