This artist is defying patriarchy in a rigid Islamic country by daring to paint Kabul with pictures of women
Shamsia Hassani is Afghanistan’s first female graffiti and street art artist who uses her art to help bring change in her war-torn country by washing away memories of decades of ravage. As an Afghan girl, being a graffiti artist isn’t easy, as the country is still used to traditional views of women, so when she can’t go out, Hassani often gets creative with her art form. For instance, she sometimes works out her graffiti concepts as paintings, which she then applies to pictures taken from around Kabul, this is something she calls “Dream of Graffiti.”
She first became interested in graffiti when she was 22-years-old, painting her imagination on city walls was something that she had dreamed of and also realised that it had to be about women, because being strong in a society that wasn’t “good to women,” was important. And Hassani paints a lot of women, women in her pictures are both whimsical as well as firmly rooted in tradition. The style might be pop surrealist, but it is infused with Afghan imagery, it is perhaps the most comforting take on being a contemporary Afghani woman.
Like all art, it is also political as it deals with identity, gender stereotypes and the need to move beyond the daily rigmarole of societal expectations. Blatant misogyny and sexism aside, ever since she was selected for the Afghan Contemporary Art Prize in 2009, there has been no looking back for her, she did her first spray paint in 2010 and has since exhibited at numerous places across the world. She also teaches fine art at Kabul University, sharing her experience and expertise with students in order to add more women to community of art.
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