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Poppy Trails of Afghan Heroin

Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong documented the trails of Afghan heroin for two decades, covering the rise of the Taliban, the American intervention after September 9/11 and the recent surge in opium production. The images and texts in the publication and the audiovisual installation reveal a dark side of globalisation, as reflected in the faces of smugglers, prisoners, prostitutes, border guards, children and farmers. With stunning landscapes along the trails as well as what have now become historic pictures of the Afghan civil war, this publication is a richly illustrated journey—supplemented by facts, stories, and quotations. Beginning in Afghanistan, it moves across Central Asia, Russia, and the Balkans to East Africa, Dubai, and into western Europe, where the poppy trail brings us to the streets of London.
As such Poppy uncovers the relationship between ‘far-away’ places such as Kandahar, Bishkek and Tirana, and the day-to-day events in our own neighbourhoods, such as street crime, drug addiction and even terrorism. By connecting the dots, Knoth and De Jong disclose the ever more complex patterns of our globalised world. While we all welcome the virtues and advantages of an open society, Poppy tells a different story: of a world facing destabilisation as a result of multiple threats. Drugs, armed conflict, international crime, chronic poverty, and the spread of hiv/aids; Poppy shows how closely they are all intertwined. As Poppy evolved to illuminate the network of heroin’s cultivation and distribution across the globe, it outgrew conventional and short form journalistic formats – necessitating its own, more immersive experience.
Kummer & Herrman designed the 492 pages thick book by weaving images and text together, not pulled back by traditionally views into a raw stream of stories shaking the readers mind. Connecting the dots between supply and demand, between us standing here in Europe and the locations and conflicts that can seem so distant on news reports, the complexity and global scale of Poppy mean that it is a story which is not simple to tell, but one that matters to us all. 

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