With her eyes closed, her head held high and a vase of flowers in her hands, the young girl looks at the bearded man who is holding a gun. The red of her scarf and the blue of her dress contrast with her gray tones. The only color that stands out is that of the eyes, red with anger.
In the following illustration, the girl’s challenge pose disappears. She is kneeling on the ground, the vase down and her hands on her face, in front of the gun and the man’s feet. The caption: “Death in the dark”.
Since Afghanistan again fell to Taliban extremists, Shamsia Hassani, 33, has stopped making public statements, but has not failed to express her feelings through art.
Hassani, known as Afghanistan’s first graffiti artist, spread her figures across the bombed-out walls of the capital Kabul, giving new meaning to the role of women in Afghan society.
With colorful clothes, big eyelashes, and hair flowing under their scarves, they are depicted walking freely through the city or challenging fighter jets and tanks with paper planes and boats.
Many hold musical instruments, a simple act that takes on an offensive appearance given that the Taliban, with their radical interpretation of Islamic scriptures, prohibits music and dancing.
In the words of Hassani, in an interview with a 2016 Vice magazine documentary, her character “is a woman who studies, is alone and faces many problems, but she is still strong.” On the artist’s Instagram profile, which has more than 200,000 followers, the works are accompanied by subtitles in Farsi and English and hashtags such as #stoptaliban (stop the Taliban) and #warzone (war zone) .
Hassani was born in 1988 in Iran to Afghan refugee parents. A graduate in fine arts from Kabul University, she discovered graffiti in 2010 during a workshop by British artist Chu.
Attracted by the idea of having walls as a canvas, she saw graffiti as a way to show her art to more people, as most of the Afghan population does not have access to galleries and museums.
Since this is a risky activity — especially for a woman in a conservative society like Afghani — Hassani tries not to do very large works, which would leave her on display for longer.
To fill this gap, he produced a series called “Dreaming Grafitti”, in which he made larger paintings on printed photos of buildings and walls in Kabul, many of which were half destroyed by bombs. He also works on authorized walls in cities such as Florence (Italy), New York (USA) and Istanbul (Turkey).
It also contains illustrations made in dollar bills, reflection on American foreign policy, exhibited at the Sakura gallery in Paris. In another series of works, titled “Birds without a Nation”, he addresses the illusions of Afghans migrating to rich countries. In 2014, she entered the list of the 100 most important world thinkers, by the American magazine Foreign Policy.
Hassani said he was not thinking of leaving the country. “A lot of qualified people are leaving Afghanistan and I feel really bad because they could do something for this country. I do not want to go outside. Maybe I can make Afghanistan famous for art, not war, ”he said in 2016.
Now, however, her life is in danger, due to the theme of her drawings and because she is an artist – she is a professor of fine arts at Kabul University and organizes graffiti festivals and classes for d other Afghan women.
Hassani’s agent told Deutsche Welle, the German public communications network, that she was safe in an undisclosed location. In a post posted this week on her social media, she also thanked the support she received from people around the world and once again said she was safe.
Her latest drawing, posted this Tuesday (24), represents a woman in a red dress playing the guitar. The title is “Homeless and Hopeless” (Homeless and Hopeless).