With a can of spray paint in hand, local Afghan female artists have taken to the streets to paint the plight of women in Afghanistan and channel their frustrations and aspirations about the future of their country through art. 24-year-old street artist Malina Suliman provides a visual backdrop to the daily struggles and hardships of Afghan women whose voices have been largely silenced by the Taliban and insurgent groups. “Some people who face injustice and the lack of rights take the bomb to kill us or narcotics to kill themselves. Graffiti is a peaceful way of fighting against the government, against all wrong things,” she says.
Kabul-based graffiti artist Shamsia Hassani embeds motivating messages in her painted murals with hopes of bringing a pop of color into the lives of passersby. Her art commonly feature over-sized women with explicit female figures in striking turquoise burqas. “My women are big, strong and modern. I capture them in movement and draw them bigger than in real life. I want people to perceive these women differently,” Hassani explains.
Sometimes, I think about how much we’ve lost to the civil war. The artists, the literature, the singers, the artifacts, the beauty.
There are so many beautiful, talented Afghan artists we were robbed of because they were assassinated. I listen to Obaidullah Jan Kandahari, I listen to Ahmad Zahir, I listen to Bakhtzamina, and I can’t help but wonder what life was like for them, in that moment they created that song or wrote that poem. Obaidullah Jan Kandahari sings about windy weather, “masta hawaa,” what was that day like? What was life like on that day in Kandahar, the shade of the trees, the wind, the skies, life as a infatuated young man in Kandahar in those days? I think of the talent, the cultural production, the beauty stolen from us in every artist, in every creative mind that was robbed. It is so surreal to me to think that these are people our parents have crossed paths with. In Kandahar, everyone knows each other, I’m sure Obaidullah has crossed paths with members of my family, and they survived the war, he didn’t. Not even our art – or perhaps especially our art – is safe from the violence of that war (let alone this one) even until this day.
There is something so violent, so painful, so distinctly inhuman about not being able to return to the streets where your parents grew up, to know that you’ll never know. There is something so violent about never knowing the home of your parents. “Home is not only a place but also a time.”