By Kalin Kipling

CAIR-SV Communications Manager

For the first female street artist in Afghanistan, work is dangerous and frightening.

But Shamsia Hassani, born in 1988, wants to continue to instill hope and inspiration in her fellow Afghan people – particularly women – and change people’s views of her country.

Shamsia uses the war-torn buildings in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, as a canvas.  

“I thought that graffiti is a good way to introduce art to people in Afghanistan,” Shamsia said in an interview with CAIR Sacramento Valley. “And it also is a good way to take off the bad memories of war from people’s minds.”

The artist’s work is not for the faint of heart: She often faces scorn from men passing by as she paints images featuring powerful images of women.

“When I’m making art, I hear a lot of bad words from people and sometimes some people come to stop my work,” Shamsia said.

She has even been pushed to leave the country by her family due to safety concerns.

However, she says Afghanistan is her heart and home – and she points out that her parents still live there.

She says on her website that her graffiti artwork, which she began painting in December 2010, aims to portray “Afghan women in a male-dominated society.”

The woman character portrayed in all of her pieces is “proud, loud and can bring positive changes to people’s lives.”

“She has no mouth, but she has a musical instrument to play her words through,” Shamsia said. The instrument makes her feel stronger and more powerful, the artist said.

“She tries to give people energy and tries to tell people to stay strong in bad situations,” she said.

When she’s not bringing color and vibrancy to Kabul’s streets, Shamsia can be found teaching art at Kabul University or traveling the world to share her ideas and artwork.

“I love doing art because it’s an international language,” she says. “Everybody can feel it and everybody can understand it.”

And the capital of California – Sacramento – is now home to one of her stunning pieces.

As part of the Wide Open Walls mural festival, Shamsia spent the past week painting a mural featuring her signature female character on an outer wall of the Sacramento News & Review (SN&R) building on Del Paso Boulevard.

“It is incredible to have artwork depicting a powerful Afghan woman in Sacramento,” said Basim Elkarra, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley chapter, which is housed in the SN&R building. “Shamsia’s piece will help inspire and spread multicultural awareness in our city.”
“We’re very proud to host the first female Afghan graffiti artist and are so impressed with her courage and artistic ability,” said Jeff vonKaenel, president of the News & Review.

And she was honored in a community celebration Wednesday, August 22.

Now Sacramentans can take in a positive piece of Kabul a world away from the Afghan city.

“I’m here to show a brighter side of Afghanistan and change people’s minds about women in Afghanistan – that they are strong and they are powerful,” said Shamsia about her visit to Sacramento. “No one knows about art in Afghanistan. There is something positive going on.”

CAIR Sacramento Valley is sponsoring her trip here. Please donate here to help fund her travel.

CONTACT: Kalin Kipling, CAIR-SV Communications Manager, 916-441-6269, kkipling@cair.com