About two years ago I met the graffiti artist Shamsia Hassani from Kabul while she was participating at the Wash Social Art Festival in Hamburg. Now we just virtually met again and I did an interview with the artist about her work and doing graffiti in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan.
How did you get involved in art?
I have started to do art as every body has started, when I was 3-4 or before that, which I can not remember, but every child like to do painting and drawing, but the important point is to stay artist until future as well.
I was born In Iran, it was not my country, but at the same time, I never been in Afghanistan, as an afghan person I have faced with lots of limitations, like they didn’t let me to study at art department, only because of my nationality, so when I get back to Afghanistan with my family, I have started studying at faculty of fine arts of Kabul university in 2006 . And then I have started making contemporary art, as well in 2009 I was selected as one of top ten artists, so after then me and 9 other artist have decided to work for developing contemporary arts and that is why we get like an artists collection at first that we called it “ROSHD “, and now it is an organization by name of “Berang arts “.
…and specifically graffiti?
I have started to do graffiti in 2010, in a graffiti workshop that organized with COMMBAT COMMS, when a graffiti artist came from UK, by name of CHU to introduces and teach graffiti to us (8 artist of Berang). After the graffiti workshop everybody left making graffiti, cause of difficulties and other problems, but only me decided to continue graffiti, I was alone with too much ideas, full of energy to achieve my goals.
Your work is political and unmistakeably loaded with cultural references. Could you tell us more about your graffiti?
With making graffiti I want to cover all bad memories of war from people’s mind with colors – to cover all bad element of war with my graffities.
Following much difficulties such as war, different harsh eras, and political issues, Afghanistan is now starting again a new life for which I put all my effort – through arts – to support it.
To introduce art to people with making graffiti, cause as you know afghan people has no chance to visit some art gallery or museums, or they don’t want to go to some art exhibition, so if I do art every body will enjoy it. Outside it is for longer time and slowly people with memorize it and it will be part of their life when every day they use the same way of that wall. It doesn’t need to ticket as well, it is colorful and bringing some change and give so much color to people ‘s mind. I could say my words with shape to people easily. An image has more effects then a word, and it’s a friendly way to fight, as I am fighting , now, for women rights as well with my art.
I believe there are many who forget all the tragedy women face in Afghanistan, that is why I use my paintings as a mean to remind the people. I want to highlight the matter in the society, with paintings reflecting women in Burqas everywhere. And I try to show them bigger than what they are in reality, and in modern forms, in shaped in happiness, movement , maybe stronger. I try to make people look at them differently.
I don’t want to talk only about negative points of their life , about their problems and difficulties, at the same time I want to talk about positive points and their happiness as well. That is true that about 90% of their life are problems, but …. Sometimes I really enjoy to talk about that 10% which is like a small light , is shining between darkness,10% is not too much , but there is . A little light is enough to break the darkness, lets to be a small light.
Is it more difficult and dangerous doing graffiti in Kabul than in Europe?
Sometimes it is difficult and some times easy. Because of security problem sometimes I am not feeling comfortable to stay long time in street, and facing with close mind people is another big problem.
When I see that some times is difficult to do graffiti in street and I am full of energy to do graffiti, then I have created a new style of graffiti, which is my own style. I am doing photography from every place that I like, buildings, walls, city and… And then after printing them, I am doing graffiti on picture’s wall, by brush and acrylic paints, it is no thing in fact, but it is every thing for me.
Thank you very much Shamsia!
all images © Shamsia Hassani / last image: urbanshit