27. The Goatherd at Shangla Pass, Swat Valley, Pakistan

The jaw-dropping beauty of the regions of Northern Pakistan once known as North West Frontier Province, now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa takes ones breathe away. The infamous Shangla Pass is on the road between the valleys of the rivers Swat and Indus in Pakistan’s tribal territories. Shangla pass and the Swat valley had become the centres of Taliban activity and most of the inhabitants had fled.

Although the Pakistan military had had some success in clearing some Taliban strongholds in Swat, at the time I reached this region, there was this ever imminent threat of Taliban attacks.

Women and girls were of course not to be seen outside on any streets and even indoors had to be dressed head to toe in blue or black burqas with even the eyes covered by fabric netting.

The great Buddhist stupas and relics I wanted to see lay beyond Shangla pass, I knew these ancients artefacts were being deliberately destroyed at a frenzied and ceaseless pace with the authorities doing nothing to protect these world antiquities.

I was determined to see them before they were all gone forever. I had hired two armed guard and with the driver made my way through to see, photograph and record the wonderful though extensively destroyed Buddhist sites dating back to 4thc BCE including those at Mingora, Barikot, Odigram and Saidu Sharif.

I was dressed exactly as a local woman and passed each checkpoint as the driver’s aunt on the way to a family wedding. We stopped by lookouts either from the Taliban or sentries of the Pakistan Military at every 200 metres. Thankfully the Leica camera and zoom lenses were well hidden in the voluminous folds of my burqa before the van was stopped each time. …I was lucky that they did not search the interior of the vehicle but just the boot and the underside of the van holding a device with a mirror attachment

At Shangla pass the driver stopped for a moment for a stream of mountain goats to pass. The goatherd in charge was this enchanting little boy who sat twiddling two sticks while the goats followed their familiar path down the valley. This scene of innocence and peace that served as a stark contrast to the tense journey was something I could never forget and was brought to my canvas.


Original:  Oil on canvas ; 12 x 12″  (305 x 305 mm) ; framed

Limited Edition Print : Available as Giclee print on finest quality paper or  canvas. International shipment

Sizes available: 8 x 12″(203 x 305 mm); 12 x 16″(305 x 410mm); 18 x 24″(457 x 610 mm); 24 x 32″ (610 x 813mm)

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