"Her shut eyes represent that there is nothing good to see. She chooses to ignore everything so she could feel less sorrow," Shamsia Hassani explained.
Amid the half-collapsed and bullet-riddled walls in Kabul's alleyways, one might unexpectedly come across paintings of a burqa-clad woman with her eyes shut and no mouth. She's the creation of Shamsia Hassani, widely known as the first female graffiti artist of Afghanistan. Born in 1988 to Afghan parents in Tehran, Iran, Hassani eventually moved to Kabul to pursue her bachelor's and master's degrees in visual art. Although her artistic career began with contemporary art, she found her true calling after a 2010 graffiti workshop by Combat Communications, an anonymous group dedicated to promoting free expression among Afghan youth. The experience opened up a world of possibilities for Hassani and she has since painted the walls of Kabul with thought-provoking and inspiring murals of Afghan women.
"Since Iran has no law through which you can be an Iranian national, I stayed Afghan after birth," Hassani told Bored Panda. "I still remember that Afghans were not allowed to work in Iran just because of their nationality. Afghans were told that they don’t have the government's permission to find a job, so my parents were facing a lot of difficulties. But I was young and didn’t understand." Speaking of the workshop organized by Combat Communications, she said: "I attended the workshop with 9 colleagues from Berang. Combat Communications invited CHU, a graffiti artist from the UK to lead the event."
"CHU's lectures included theory, practical work, and presentations of different artists from around the world," the artist added. "There, we learned graffiti for the first time. As the workshop continued, we learned about spray techniques and how to paint large-scale drawings on the wall. I really liked it and thought it has a lot of uses. I believed that graffiti can be a tool through which I will change the war-torn walls of my city into colorful paintings. The colors would hide stories of war on the walls of my city and people would see new things instead of bullet signs and cracks."
"Many of my paintings have a recurring character. Just like movie characters have their roles to play, so does mine. Most importantly, she’s a human being, but because I am a woman and I understand women better because women have more restrictions than men in our society, I chose my character to be a woman. A woman with shut eyes and no mouth, sometimes with a damaged musical instrument which gives her power and confidence to talk and play. Her shut eyes represent that there is nothing good to see. She chooses to ignore everything so she could feel less sorrow," Hassani explained. "The character in my paintings sometimes plays different roles such as a combatant or a refugee with no future. At times, she searches for peace, and sometimes she has no identity whatsoever. She also gets lost in her dreams as well as the pain and sorrow, she struggles with the past and the future but is a patriot who loves her homeland and fights hopelessness."
Here are 25 inspiring artworks by Hassani: