top of page

The Origins of Oil Painting:

"A Journey from Afghanistan's Silk Roads"

From Buddhist Bamiyan in Afghanistan we follow the Afridi Tribal communities of the Khyber Pass. Onward to the Ancient City of Peshawar in Pakistan and through Kashmir To Gujarat in India. We follow the life of oil painting before it emerged in Europe.

About the Project:

As a cultural heritage landscape the Buddhist Monastic settlement in Bamiyan, Afghanistan was one of many functional dwellings and creative workspaces occupied by Buddhist Sangha. Traces of resin, plant oils and ochres were found, resembling any modern-day artist’s studio. It is believed that these Buddhist artists applied paint to walls but also to textiles and other materials during experimentation and the development of the first oil paints and subsequently made their way into local tribal arts. Today, we can view the techniques used in the earliest oil paintings in the ancient city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Here, one remaining family practices an artistic technique called ‘Rogan Silk Painting.’ Rogan is the Persian word for ‘Oil.’ In the tribal region that straddles Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pathan people point to Rogan Silk Painting as the earliest form of oil based art that dates back to a time before Islam and at the peak of trade over the Silk Roads. Making plant based oils for decorative arts was once an ancient practice of the Afridi Tribal communities of the Hindu Kush. The art was also known to several families of Hindu origin who became skilled in the free-hand work of Rogan painting. Rogan oil painting has also spread as far East as Gujerat India where the Muslim Khatri family produce handmade and printed Rogan Islamic art tracing back some four hundred years. In Peshawar, Pakistan the eldest son in a long line of Rogan artists, Fayyaz Ahmad, has spent his life struggling to keep this fading art alive, and today his hard work and heritage is gaining recognition once again. Keeping Rogan art alive in Pakistan has been a struggle of persistence, the family burden of tradition but also the love for an ancient traditional meditative practice that still has much to offer the modern world.


Connect with Us:

Follow our journey on the Fading Cultures Project webpage and social media channels for regular updates, stunning visuals, and captivating stories. Engage with us, share in our experiences, and be part of a movement that transcends borders, cultures, and time.


Get in touch so we can start working together.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page