Activist art

Afghan street artist uses graffiti to subvert gender norms

Shamsia Hassani (Facebook)

Shamsia Hassani is said to be the first female street artist in Afghanistan. Born in 1988, she lives in Kabul, where she splashes her vibrant art across city walls. As the Huffington Post reports, Hassani strives to bring color and beauty to a city marred by violence. She also hopes that her graffiti can help alter deeply entrenched attitudes towards women. “I have changed my images to show the strength of women, the joy of women,” Hassani told Art Radar Journal. “I want to show that women have returned to Afghan society with a new, stronger shape. It’s not the woman who stays at home. It’s a new woman. A woman who is full of energy, who wants to start again.”

Hassani has felt firsthand the sting of sexism and oppression. Because she operates within a society that believes women belong in the home, Hassani cannot always bring her art to the streets. And so she has developed a technique that she calls “dreaming graffiti”: using digital images, created in a studio, as the backdrop to her work. The images that Hassani creates are a testament to the strength of women, and a call for their liberation. Her characters wear hijabs, and are often situated in the center of urban scenes. They are often forlorn, but still colorful, bold, and free — the vivid centerpieces of dark cityscapes.

Shamsia Hassani (Facebook)

Shamsia Hassani (Facebook)

In a series called “Secret,” a crowd of burqa-clad figures stand behind a woman wielding a red guitar. “I wanted to show the secret beneath the burqa, which is that there is a real person inside,” Hassani said. “I wanted to remove the restrictions on women and the guitar represents her ability to speak up and express herself.”

Read more at the Huffington Post.


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