Shamsia Hassani: First female graffiti artist in Afghanistan

Shamsia Hassani is the first Afghan female graffiti artist; it might surprise. If her existence was unimaginable when the Taliban were doing their law, it is now one of many examples of Afghanistan that changes.

Shamsia Hassani was born in 1988 with Iran-Afghan parents and she now teaches at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Kabul. She is a Afghan “graffiti artist” whose works adorn the spaces of her faculty and some streets of Kabul. She also participated in various festivals in Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.

If Afghanistan is much better known for wars and bombs as paint bombs, Shamsia Hassani tries through her art to change that perception. She sees her art as a way to bring positive change. “To paint on the bad memories of the war,” she tells the magazineArt Radar.


Her works often include representations of women in burqas, the traditional typical dress of Afghan women and often portrayed by the Western media as a symbol of oppression of women. If Shamsia not wearing burqa she wants, through her work, to mention those who do.

“I design for women in burqas often in a modernist style on the walls. I want to talk about their lives, find a way to get them out of the dark, open their minds,” she says.

“Many people around the world think that the burqa is the problem. They believe that if women take off the burqa, they will have more problems. This is not true, says the artist. When women have not access to education, it is a bigger problem than the burqa because when they remove it, they always meet. We need to focus on major issues,” she explains.


If the passion is palpable Shamsia Hassani, her practice in the streets of Kabul is difficult. As an Afghan girl, she is inevitably confronted with a traditional view complicating her task. Some see her works as vandalism; others believe that the place of the woman is “in the house”.

“I do not always have the opportunity to do graffiti outside, once every two or three months only. Sometimes for security reasons, other times I cannot go to an area because of the people,” she explains to Art Radar.

To work around this, she has found a solution in what she calls “Dream of Graffiti.” She applies her sketches on the photos from different places in Kabul.

“I can do graffiti on the pictures in my studio with brushes. It’s like a graffiti dream. From graffiti but only in my head, it’s not real,” she says.

If Shamsia does not practice her passion as easily as she wishes, she nevertheless grew as an artist and is recognized, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In 2009, she was among the top 10 artists selected for the price of the Afghan contemporary art. Last September, she was nominated for Artraker Award, a prize awarded by an English company rewarding the perpetrators of visual arts “inspire individuals and organizations to better understand and react to wars, armed conflicts”.


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