The study deals with the pre-Islamic culture of two linguistically close ethnic groups who live in NE-Afghanistan in the Hindukush region once known as Kafiristan, but renamed as Nuristan after its Islamization in 1896.
The author was able to conduct extensive field research which enabled him to reconstruct for the first time the Kafir culture of the two groups in all its essential aspects. He discusses the former religious and socio-political concepts with their belief systems and rituals, social ranks, feasts of merit, hero cults etc.
The main focus of the study, however, is on the arts which flourished mostly in socially meaningful wood carvings, and which had survived Islamization and the trade in ethnographic art until the 1970s. The many Kafir artefacts of each stylistic subregion are presented in a relative chronological order and interpreted as far as possible. Far reaching changes in the period styles betray major shifts in the Kafir culture shortly before its forcible end one century ago.
"Un ouvrage donc, au propre et au figuré, de poids et de prix, donnant un tableau très complet du Kafirstan et des Kafirs d'avant la conquête. Magnifiquement illustré, le corpus rassemblé dans le volume de planches est unique et presque exhaustif. Il est un hommage à un art du bois exceptionnel, dont les œuvres sont hélas condamnées à la dilapidation et au pillage qui accompagnent la guerre civile afghane." L'Homme
"His book is of course indispensable for anyone with a scholarly interest in the Hindu Kush and neighbouring areas…" Folk