Portraying the nationwide destruction wrought by 25 years of warfare, the resettling of three million refugees and the first steps toward rebuilding Afghanistan after the 2002 defeat of the Taliban regime, the Return, Afghanistan: Photographs by ZalmaÌ exhibit makes its West Coast debut with a reception at 3 p.m. Saturday, January 22nd, at the Loyola Marymount University Laband Art Gallery, 1 LMU Drive, Westchester. Admission is free.

The exhibit remains on display through Sunday, March 6th.

The photographer ZalmaÌ, himself a refugee from the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan who currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, visited his native country after the fall of the Taliban regime.

His purpose was to create a photographic account of both the suffering and the hope of the country’s exiled populations returning to face the challenge of rebuilding Afghan society.

“My project tries to capture the determination and the courage of a people that has rarely known peace, their optimism against all odds and their worry that Afghanistan could still revert to the nightmarish condition it is trying to escape,” writes ZalmaÌ about the exhibit.

ZalmaÌ’s project was sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Working in panoramic and wide-angle camera formats to embrace the country’s vastness of sand, mountain and sky, as well as interior scenes where bargaining warlords and tribal chieftains gather, and schoolrooms where eager girls in head scarves hang on every word of their teachers, ZalmaÌ immerses the viewer in the ravaged landscape and the intense activity of renewal and reconstruction.

The exhibit includes photos of a wheat harvest in the Samangan province after six years of drought and war, refugees returning to a brick factory and a number of shots documenting the actions of then-appointed President Hamid Karzai. Many of the photos also show the landscape of Afghanistan.

Marking the opening of the exhibit, scholar Alam Payind, director of the Middle East Studies Center at Ohio State University and a former professor at Kabul University, will give a public lecture highlighting the similarities and differences between the political conflicts in Afghanistan and those in Iraq.

Payind’s lecture is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, January 22nd, at the Loyola Marymount University Murphy Recital Hall, 1 LMU Drive, Westchester. Admission is free.

Mohammed Qayoumi, vice president of administration and finance at California State University-Northridge, will be on hand to discuss Payind’s remarks.

Return, Afghanistan: Photographs by ZalmaÌ is accompanied by a full-color catalog displaying the photos, published by the Aperture Foundation. The catalog will be available for purchase at the exhibition and includes essays by photographer Ron Moreau, a Newsweek correspondent based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The Return, Afghanistan: Photographs by ZalmaÌ exhibit was shown last year in Kabul, Afghanistan and also in Geneva, Switzerland.

Information, (310) 338-2880.