Afghanistan, art of resistance

Shamsia Hassani: Graffiting a different Afghanistan.

Shamsia Hassani is Afghanistan’s first female street artist. She’s fighting for a better today, even dreams about graffiti, and her great wish is to work with Banksy. I knew that about her, but approached her for an interview for the Croatian news site Libela I am writing for. I wanted to hear more. She answered, very modest and kind, ready to share her story. Since many of you can’t read Croatian, here are the parts of her story in English combined with the photos of some of her beautiful work.

I’ve started to do art as everybody starts , when I was 3-4 or before that , which I can not remember , but as I mentioned, every child likes to do painting and drawing , but the important point is to stay artist in the future as well, throughout your life.

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I was born In Iran, it was not my country, but at the same time, I’ve never been in Afghanistan, and as an afghan person I have faced lots of limitations – like they didn’t let me study at the art department, only because of my nationality. So when I got back to Afghanistan with my family, things finally worked out. I started studying at the Faculty of fine arts of Kabul university in 2006 and then I started making contemporary art. I was where I wanted to be. 

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I started doing graffiti later, in 2010., after a graffiti workshop I attended. When it finished everybody stopped making graffiti, because of difficulties and other problems, but only I decided to continue graffiti. I was alone with lots of  ideas, full of energy to achieve my goals. By making graffiti I want to cover all the bad memories of war from people’s mind, paint them with different colors.  

Also, afghan people have no chance to visit some art gallery or museums, or they don’t want to go to some art exhibition, so if I do art like this everybody will enjoy it. After a longer time, slowly people will memorize it and it will be part of their life. It might make them (re)think things. There’s no ticket needed, and –  it is colorful and bringing some change into sad or boring everyday scenery.

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I believe there are many who forget all the tragedy women face in Afghanistan, that is why I use my paintings, to remind the people. I want to highlight those issues in the society, with paintings reflecting women in burqas everywhere. And I try to show them bigger than what they are in reality, and in modern forms, shaped in happiness, movement , maybe stronger. I try to make people look at them differently. And, we have to remember that, first of all,  freedom is not to remove burqa, freedom is to have peace.

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I don’t want to talk only about negative points of their life, about their problems and difficulties. At the same time I want to talk about positive points and their happiness as well. It is true that about 90% of their lifes are problems, but …. Sometimes I really enjoy to talk about that 10% which is like a small light, it is shining between darkness, 10% is not too much , but there it is. A little light is enough to break the darkness, so let it be. 

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Sometimes it is difficult and sometimes easy , because of security problems – sometimes I am not feeling comfortable staying long time on the street, and facing with close minded people is another big problem . 

Following much difficulties such as war, different harsh eras, and political issues, Afghanistan is like a newborn, now starting again a new life, for which I put all my efforts – through arts – to support it. 

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You can follow Shamsia and her work on her facebook page.

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