Creating a Revolution, One Artist at a Time

Shamsia Hassani and her graffiti on a street in Kabul

Shamsia Hassani and her graffiti on a street in Kabul

What makes art such a powerful tool? There seems to be only so much one can get across in words. But art is different. You see it everywhere and are constantly challenged by the beliefs held by these artists without ever facing them. The message one can transmit through art is unlike one that can be transmitted through a speech because even the tiniest details can come to symbolize something so much more. With a few colors or strokes of a brush, a new message is conveyed to its observer and stirs whatever emotions the artist intended.

Shamsia Hassani, 24, is probably the first serious graffiti artist of Kabul. Her paintings can be found covering walls in industrial parks featuring women in burqas with hips and sharp shoulders or fish “trapped and silent in their watery universe” (Art in the Streets of Kabul). Hassani finds that art in exhibitions will only meet the eye of those who are educated, but if you “do graffiti all over the city, there will be nobody who doesn’t know about art.” Some of her pieces are in response to the violence that has devoured the city, and her messages are even reflected by the very location she is forced to work in. Being an artist in the streets of a city at war is difficult enough. Women face even further harassment, so Hassani works in industrial parks and abandoned buildings, such as the cultural center which is the site of her painting “Beyond the burqa.” To avoid the problems of the street, Hassani also takes pictures of the streets, prints them out, and does “graffiti” on them with a paintbrush.

Hassani began art as a child, but unlike other children, she continued despite having no teacher. Though born in Iraq, her parents were Afghani refugees, therefore she was not allowed to take art classes and resorted to studying accounting. When her family returned to Kabul, Hassani intended to work at the University art department but soon became more interested in contemporary art. She hopes to start a class on graffiti and bring art to the city. Hassani believes in the change art can bring about and is convinced that artwork may “only cause a small shock to their mind, but that can grow and grow.”

Whether it’s covering the walls on a street or being intently observed in a gallery, there is no denying that art has a significant impact on people and may even have the ability to evoke an active response. Though some might not be ready to accept art’s impact as being revolutionary, the messages conveyed are likely to bring about some change.

by Habiba Fayyaz

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