Dating from the time of Ghengis Khan, the glorious game of buzkashi (pronounced BOO-skeh-shee) is Afghanistan's national pastime. It may well be the most violent game on earth. Dozens of horsemen, sometimes hundreds, on two teams or more battle for possession of a headless calf carcass. Pride, prestige, even political power are at stake in these matches which, like cricket, can go on for days. But buzkashi, with its whips, stallions and bloody consequences, is definitely not cricket. The players are warriors, and so are their stallions.


In the spring and summer of 2004, I was based in Kabul, Afghanistan, working the last of three prolonged assignments reporting, shooting and broadcasting for Canada's national wire service. Whenever I could, I would visit the sprawling factory complex in the city's Jangalak district, where about 200 mostly elderly workers had returned to try to resurrect what was once a glorious enterprise. The Jangalak factory had employed some 2,000 workers and produced more than 1,000 industrial products. But it had been destroyed in the bloody civil war that had brought the Taliban to power. Now these old men, and one young boy, were coming back, unpaid, to try to raise it from the dead.

They had rudimentary tools and machinery, and most were producing small products, like the lead counterweights used on scales in village markets all over the country. I grew to admire and befriend many of these workers over time. This photoessay is a tribute to them and to the indomitable Afghan spirit that has borne the country through decades of war, poverty and hardship.