Female Afghanistan Graffiti Artists – Hassani and Suliman

Shamsia Hassani

Shamsia Hassani focuses on freedom of speech and women’s rights.

Erik B. Duckert article

“Shamsia expresses a beautiful naïveté”

Definition of naïveté

  • of a person or action) showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement.
  •  (of a person) natural and unaffected; innocent.
  •  of or denoting art produced in a style which deliberately rejects sophisticated artistic techniques and has a bold directness resembling a child’s work, typically in bright colours with little or no perspective.

At no point in the article does Shamsia appear naive nor do her paintings appear unsophisticated. She is aware of the danger, the harassment she faces and the bomb threats. In spite of this she paints – for happiness. Duckert seems caught up with the idea that she is young and female. Shamsia is not naive, she is brave.

“Shamsia vandalizes buildings scarred by war; western graffiti artists vandalize buildings scarred by nothing.

Maybe there’s a message in that?”

While western graffiti artists are not painting on war torn streets, they are not covering buildings scarred by nothing. Where is graffiti most prominent? In poverty-stricken areas. Those buildings are scarred by drug and alcohol abuse, poor education and lack of employment opportunities. The struggle is not over, and in this current economic climate the gap between rich and poor is widening. Equality, dignity, opportunity are worth fighting for.

Malina Suliman

Malina Suliman’s drawing of the burka wearing skeleton is a self portrait.

Another article on a Female Afghanistan Graffiti Artists was featured on the BBC. She has had to leave Afghanistan due to Taliban threats and attacks. Her artwork is described as “a desperate act of defiance both against her family and the Taliban.”

“During my confinement at home I was overwhelmed with a lot of feelings. I realised there might be other girls facing the same problems as me. To paint at home would not have served any purpose. I wanted to send a message to the girls in my situation to have no fear and to express themselves in public.”

This is a recurring theme through all graffiti artists work, of being powerless and spreading a message. Making a mark and drawing attention to injustice. This is not always the overt motivations but is shown through the act of painting on a building owned by part of “society” that so often excludes those on the margins.

Suliman’s says “Key is a recurring theme of my art. It opens the doors to success as well as the mental block of people.”

Ms Suliman appears calm and peaceful, but beneath the surface is hidden a deep-seated worry, “I don’t know what my future holds. I am struggling to break free both from inside home and outside.”

Does graffiti open doors? I don’t know. It does open people’s eyes to the doors being locked.


2 thoughts on “Female Afghanistan Graffiti Artists – Hassani and Suliman

  1. Erik

    Hi there, thank you for your interest in the piece.

    Shamsia’s naïveté should be read in the proper context I wrote: “Shamsia expresses a beautiful naïveté, an optimistic spirit essential to any fight for freedom and to the rebuilding of a recent war zone” my use of ‘naive’ is that of ‘open hearted’, optimistic and hopeful.

    The aesthetic naivety is pretty obvious I think.

    The last part of the article should be read in this context:
    “Shamsia can paint for peace, she can paint for women’s rights or the freedom of speech, but what is the goal of the western graffiti artist, the one sprouted from a seemingly post-ideological society – what are they expressing?”

    When I say that ‘western’ graffiti artists paint on ‘walls scarred by nothing’ the intention is not to say that the walls have no scars but instead to open the words to interpretation: There is a world of difference between an unscarred wall and a wall scarred by nothing.

    Best regards Erik

  2. activismcreative Post author

    Thank you for taking the time to elaborate. In relation to female artists creating political work “naivety” does have negative connotations. But after reading your comment it seems that you were referring more to idealism than naivety. And I agree that Shamsia Hassani’s idealism is beautiful.

    The article was negative towards western graffiti artists and in many areas walls that are gratified on can not be described as “scarred by nothing”. “Scarred by nothing” does equal the walls being unscarred, there is no distinction here in the meaning of the words and it does not appear that the words are as you say open to interpretation. Although your intention was different, it does not come across in the article.

    Look forward to reading more of your work in the future.


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