Before the Dawn New exhibition responding to the conflict in Afghanistan reveals the unseen stories and lives of soldiers and locals
Sponsored by Afghan Entrepreneur Mirwais Alizai
4 - 15 November, La Galleria Pall Mall, 30 Royal Opera Arcade, London, SW1Y 4UY

  • Critically acclaimed war artist Arabella Dorman presents an exhibition of works inspired by her time spent in Afghanistan over the last five years
  • The exhibition goes beyond the conflict to document the reality of life for Afghan families and British soldiers at a crucial time of transition
  • ‘Before the Dawn’ will coincide with a time of national remembrance (Remembrance Sunday, 9 November 2014)
  • The exhibition is made possible through the support of Afghan entrepreneur Mirwais Alizai
  • Sales of work will support charities Afghanaid and Walking With The Wounded
  • A series of talks from the artist and expert panelists will give visitors a deeper understanding of the work and of everyday life in Afghanistan
  • Press breakfast from 11am – 12pm Tuesday 4 November, VIP reception from 6.30pm
  • For further information email
  • Download high-res images:

Arabella Dorman is an artist intrigued by the human condition; her work documents the people and places affected by conflict across the globe. Before the Dawn – An Artist’s Journey Through Afghanistanat La Galleria Pall Mall, London, (4 – 15 November) is an exhibition of work inspired by and created during her travels through Afghanistan over a period of five years. The exhibition is made possible by Mirwais Alizai, a young Afghan entrepreneur and patron of the arts.

Before the Dawn opens at time of UK national remembrance and reflection as the British Army begins the final phase of military drawdown after over a decade of conflict in Afghanistan. Arabella and Mr Alizai are working together to encourage viewers to think about the nature of conflict, and its impact on the Afghan landscape. This period of change and uncertainty for the country is captured in the title of the exhibition which signals the hopes and fears of each new day, while also capturing a shared ambition for stability and prosperity as Afghanistan enters a new period of its history. This sense of promise is highlighted in Arabella’s focus on children who lie at the heart of the Afghan community, where nearly half of the population is under the age of fourteen.

Arabella lived and worked alongside local people and the armed forces across Afghanistan during trips made over the past five years, chronicling their lives in a series of paintings and works on paper. The exhibition is a response to the unfolding narrative that she witnessed and an insight into how individual lives are shaped by conflict. The work takes the viewer on a journey through the dusty landscapes of Helmand province, along the roads of Afghanistan’s recent history and into the everyday lives of Afghan families. Back in the UK, Arabella has charted the stories of returning soldiers as they face the reality of life at home and the after-effects of conflict.

The exhibition’s sponsor Mirwais Alizai is a local entrepreneur, who was born in Helmand province and has a deep personal commitment to the prosperity and representation of his country and culture. He stands for the dedication and self-sufficiency of the Afghan community, having become the sole breadwinner for his family at a young age when he lost his father, going on to found international ICT company GTR. As a local Afghan citizen, Mr. Alizai is struck by the power of Arabella’s painting to capture the humanity and truth of the Afghan nation at this formative time.

Mirwais Alizai said: “This symbolic exhibition of paintings address the effects of conflict for everyday people and brave soldiers alike as our young country seeks to define its future. Arabella’s work takes us on a journey through the country of my birth and brings to life the real struggle of Afghan families against the backdrop of conflict.

She has captured the soul of my country in a way I have not encountered before and depicts the real Afghanistan - a place where the darker effects of war are balanced by optimism and ambition. My association with this exhibition is something I am proud and privileged to be able to do. Her exhibition confronts the legacy of conflict and the often invisible scars it leaves, but also challenges preconceptions about Afghanistan and its people.”

Arabella Dorman said:  “In the face of destruction, the beauty of being a human being resides in our hope. Within our media-driven world, I have turned to the quieter and more deliberate medium of paint to tell of that beauty and reveal the hidden stories of courage, sacrifice and tribulation that are often only found in the shadows of other reporting. I seek to depict the people of Afghanistan and soldiers serving there in the unseen and more intimate space of their everyday lives. My work reflects the transition of a country and its people, but also of servicemen and women who return home, carrying with them the scars of war which will forever link them to Afghanistan; both face an equally uncertain future.”

A series of guest talks and panel discussions with the artist will take place throughout the exhibition, giving visitors a deeper connection with the experiences shared by Arabella and her subjects during her time in Afghanistan.

100% of ticket sales and 10% of all sales of work will be donated to the two charities with whom Arabella has been working for some time, supporting aid workers and rehabilitation programmes on both British and Afghan soil; Afghanaid and Walking With the Wounded.

  • Afghanaid is a British development charity that operates solely in Afghanistan with men, women and children in some of the most remote and poorest areas of the country. Their aim is to understand communities and their needs, gain their trust, help develop their skills and improve their prospects
  • Walking With The Wounded was established in 2010 to raise funds for the re-education and re-training of our wounded servicemen and women
  • For further information and tickets to the fundraising receptions please follow this link:


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For all press enquiries, Kallaway PR:

  • Fiona Russell
  • +44 20 7221 7883

About Arabella Dorman -
Born in 1975, Arabella Dorman has gained an international reputation as a society portrait painter and as a war artist. Arabella’s work demonstrates a mastery of classical technique with a contemporary twist, an approach that owes much to her studies at Byam Shaw School of Art, Edinburgh University and four years at Charles Cecil Atelier, Florence. Arabella has painted commissions for prominent figures and establishments throughout Britain and her work hangs in public institutions and private collections around the world.

Arabella’s war paintings are drawn from first hand experience as an independent traveller, as well as  working with British and Afghan forces in Afghanistan (2009 onwards) and with British forces in Southern Iraq (2006).  Her work is a powerful exploration of the everyday reality of life on the frontline and the tragedy of a country and people devastated by war. Arabella lives in London with her husband and two children.

Afghanaid -
Afghanaid is a British development charity that operates solely in Afghanistan. With a Head Office in Kabul, they employ 400 staff in-country, almost all Afghans. Afghanaid’s work began in 1983 and continues to this day.  Afghanaid works with rural men, women and children in some of the most remote and poorest areas of the country. Their aim is to understand communities and their needs, gain their trust, help develop their skills and improve their prospects.
Afghan aid has helped more than one million Afghans through the construction of roads, bridges, wells and schools, improved health, education and agricultural production as well as the development of rural savings groups and small businesses. Ultimately, Afghana id looks to a future Afghanistan that is peaceful and secure.
Walking With the Wounded -
Walking With The Wounded was established in 2010 to raise funds for the re-education and re-training of our wounded servicemen and women. For most, leaving the Armed Forces was not something they were planning before their injuries, and so most are not prepared for the move from one career to another. Further to this they are now facing a future with physical and mental disabilities.

For these brave young men and women, their future security will be under-pinned by finding employment.  They have already proven their ability to learn and adapt to new situations, but many of them do not have the necessary skills or confidence to find a job in the civilian world.

WWTW helps fund training and education to help them find a career, so that they can support themselves and re-build a life in the civilian work place. WWTW don’t just focus on those leaving the services today – the lack of awareness of the impact of physical and mental injury dates back to the Falklands and Northern Ireland. WWTW aims to provide a support network to all injured veterans.


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