25-year-old graffiti artist Shamsia Hassani is one of the handful of Afghan “art activists” who have been taking to the streets of Kabul to paint political pieces around the war-torn city. Her motivation is to bring art to Afghanistan and get people thinking.
Before graffiti, the self-taught artist served as an associate professor of sculpture at Kabul University. Shamsia has traded traditional art for spray cans and stencils because she has realized that traditional art is a luxury that cuts out all but the educated.
"If you have an exhibition, most uneducated people won't even know about it," she told the Guardian. "But if you have art like graffiti in the street, everyone can see that … If we can do graffiti all over the city, there will be nobody who doesn't know about art."
So far, Shamsia has used industrial yards and abandoned buildings as her canvases. She also does fantasy graffiti to thwart the obstacles she faces as a female artist in a city at war.
"At the moment I do graffiti and wall-painting at home. [To do it] in the city is still a bit difficult, especially for girls," she said. "This is not Europe...If you stand in the street, you face problems; because of this I started a new style of graffiti. I take pictures of places I like in the city, open them in a program like Photoshop, and do digital designs. Or I print out a picture of the street and then do graffiti with a paintbrush. If you scan it back, it looks like real graffiti, but of course it isn't."
Shamsia describes her painting of a woman shrouded in blue on the steps of a bombed building (pictured above): "She is wondering if she can get up, or if she will fall down. Women in Afghanistan need to be careful with every step they take."