Tim Page and community horsetrading

10 09 2009

I met a legend in Kabul. His name is Tim Page and he has the rare acclaim of having been played by Dennis Hopper, in the film Apocalypse Now. Perhaps the kudos is the other way around. A British photographer and author, he spent a while in Vietnam during the early years of the war. One story goes that he and an American Sergeant were hit by a mine exiting a helicopter. They were both so badly hit that the helicopter crew zipped them up in body bags thinking they were dead. He came to on the return to base and cut himself and then the Sergeant, who was also alive, out of the body bags using his pocket knife.

When I met him at a party he had this new toy, an expensive camera that could take great photos in the poor light. He was charming girls by taking atmospheric and flattering photographs of them.  It felt odd to speak to him as two relative newcomers in a place like Afghanistan. He doesn’t do war correspondence any more but is here running photography courses under the umbrella of the UN.

The Engineer and the community representative, Palavan Aziz knock out a deal on land ownership.

The Engineer and the community representative, Palavan Aziz knock out a deal on land ownership.

This week has been crucial for progress on land ownership in Murad Khane. In a city where buildings suffer from war and weather traditional buildings come and go regularly. People build on whatever space they need, often without permission in these more neglected areas of town. Walls collapse, property lines are buried and where necessary property can be Istemlaked by the Government, similar to compulsory purchase orders. Comercially Murad Khane is valuable land as the only part of the old town still north of the river. The quicker we resolve and rebuild the better chance that we can keep it from commercial development.

The photo above shows TM’s ‘Engineer’ as he is known with the community representative knocking out a deal on land that we can use for infrastructure. In reality this horsetrading on a community scale. Although Palavan Aziz knows that TM are in Murad Khane to improve the community he is also aware that we are so committed to the plan that he wields a fair amount of power that can be used to his and the residents’ benefit, to varying degrees. On the wall is the original Soviet-Block style masterplan to flatten the whole of MK and replace it with modern blocks.

Group of Murad Khane's construction workers on site in the Great Serai

Group of Murad Khane's construction workers on site in the Great Serai

Plans to implement this are the reason the much of MK is Istimlaked. Whilst this is positive the concept of this total demolition still hangs over the head of Turquoise Mountain’s reconstruction project.

The photo is one we took earlier this of some of the labourers. Getting them to wear safety equipment has been an ordeal but they are now keen. Consequently the senior Afghan staff have now begun to see wearing it as demeaning. An odd state of affairs.

More on the Engineer in the next Afghan of the Week.

DuncanDJ

Advertisements