Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, many Afghans are unsure how their lives and safety would be affected.
However, it can be tough for an outsider like myself to make sense of it and really comprehend what these folks are going through. As a result, I’ll have to seek out someone who can explain things to me.
Afghanistan’s first female street artist is Shamsia Hassani, a painter who has lectured at Kabul University.Hassani’s paintings, whether on canvas or on the wall of an abandoned bombed building, depict not only the role of women in a male-dominated society, but also the war between light and darkness that has subjugated the area she calls home.
Meet Shamsia Hassani, a painter who has taught at Kabul University and is considered Afghanistan’s first female street artist
She began in 2010 after attending a graffiti workshop taught by CHU, a British artist.
Hassani has now created her own style and has painted her signature character, a woman with closed eyes and no mouth, all throughout the country.
Shamsia Hassani was born in Iran in 1988 to Afghan parents. She has had to deal with adversity since the beginning of her life. “I stayed Afghan after birth since Iran has no statute that allows you to become an Iranian citizen.”the artist told“I recall Afghans being denied employment in Iran only because of their nationality. Afghans were taught that they didn’t need authorization from the government to find work, therefore my parents were in a lot of trouble. But I was a kid and didn’t get it.”
Shamsia’s life eventually led her back to Afghanistan. In 2010, she attended a graffiti class organised in Kabul by Combat Communications, which led her down a path she is still on a decade later. “I attended the workshop with nine Berang colleagues. CHU, a graffiti artist from the United Kingdom, was invited to conduct the event by Combat Communications.”
“The lectures at CHU featured theory, practical practise, and presentations by many artists from throughout the world,” Shamsia continued. “It was there that we learned our first graffiti. We learned about spray painting techniques and how to create huge scale drawings on the wall as the course progressed.”
The other nine artists who attended the session with Shamsia did not continue to work on their graffiti talents or follow the art form afterward. She, on the other hand, was smitten. “I liked it a lot and believed it had a lot of applications.“I believed that graffiti could be a technique for me to transform my city’s war-torn walls into vibrant paintings,” Shamsia added. “The colours would obscure war stories on my city’s walls, and visitors would notice new things instead of bullet holes and cracks.”
“I also thought it may be a way for those who had never come to an exhibition or seen my work to have a taste of my work. They may have the opportunity to learn and enjoy something new. Some might even pose for photos in front of it for a few minutes of entertainment.”
However, when Shamsia started involved in graffiti, her country grew more dangerous, and she was unable to spray happiness outside. She also had to deal with some other cultural differences. “People in Afghanistan aren’t opposed to art, but they are opposed to women’s activities,” she explained.“So when people spotted me outside creating graffiti, they cursed me, and some even called it a sin.”
“When I painted in public spaces, after approximately 15 minutes, I started to feel insecure, so I would leave. My pieces would have been better if I had had the opportunity to stay for roughly 2-3 hours, but in 15 minutes all I could do was either paint something very simplistic or leave the item unfinished.”
“Another difficulty was the scarcity of graffiti-friendly areas. No one wanted a painting on their walls; they would only consent if I made something that they liked. When it came to their property, they had their own wishes and didn’t want my artworks.”
Despite the continuous war and other political and social concerns, Shamsia claims that the situation for women improved when the Taliban fell in 2001 – they gradually entered society and were given the opportunity to learn and flourish. “Many women have progressed in many professions such as education, trade, culture, medicine, and so on over the last two decades. The progress has been sluggish, but it has been quite promising.”
However, things have recently taken a turn for the worst. “Now, with the return of the Taliban (which I still don’t believe), many women are fleeing the country and… do not see a bright future. All of these years of effort had been for naught.”
Hassani is safe, but she has been forced to leave her homeland, much to her dismay.
“A reoccurring character appears in many of my paintings. Mine has a role to play, much like the characters in movies. Most importantly, she is a human being, but I opted to make my character a woman since I am a woman and because I understand women better than men in our culture. A woman with closed eyes and no mouth, occasionally holding a broken musical instrument that gives her the ability to speak and play.Her closed eyes indicate the fact that there is nothing pleasant to behold. She chooses to disregard everything in order to experience less sorrow,” the artist continued, explaining that while her work is largely focused on persons and societal issues, it does occasionally become political.
“In my paintings, the character occasionally takes on numerous identities, such as a soldier or a refugee with no future. She looks for serenity at times, and she has no identity at other times. She, too, is lost in her dreams, as well as in the agony and sadness; she battles with the past and the future, but she is a patriot who loves her homeland and opposes hopelessness.”