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Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani
Issue #102 The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani

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The Way I Work... Graffiti Artist Shamsia Hassani

Shamsia Hassani, hailed as Afghanistan’s first female graffiti artist, uses the streets of Kabul as her canvas. A former professor of art at Kabul University, she began her artistic journey with traditional painting and later embraced graffiti as a powerful medium to express herself and her views, while also allowing people access to free art.  

Through her vibrant and evocative murals, she gives a voice to the rights of Afghan women; challenging stereotypes and showcasing their strength. Hassani also depicts the lasting and damaging impact of war. Her work has gained international recognition, with exhibitions in cities such as LA and New York. Shamsia Hassani’s art not only adorns the walls of her home city but aims to serve as a catalyst for conversations. With each stroke, she has left an indelible mark on both the streets and the collective consciousness, inviting the world to understand the intricate tapestry of Afghan culture and politics through her eyes.  

Here, Hassani shares her inspirations and artistic process, and shares her hopes for a society that listens to the power of art… 

How do you start your working day? 

I usually schedule my tasks in the morning, because each day I am in a different mood. I always have a few artworks in progress, and I decide which one I want to continue working on. My daily tasks include sketching new ideas for projects, checking my social media accounts, recording my work process and editing videos of my work to share online. Sometimes, if I am not in the mood to work, I visit art galleries, do a little shopping or go for a walk. When I am feeling depressed, I spend the whole day changing my studio’s décor. 

What does your workspace look like? 

I use one of the two apartment rooms where I live as my studio. There is a sun-facing balcony where I keep five different plants that enjoy the sun. On one of my studio walls, I have my rough sketches, incomplete canvas works and prints bym y favourite artists. My work desk is loaded with pencils, pastels, and sketch paper, where I make my very first sketches for each piece. There is a closet with many shelves where I keep my art prints and postcard collection. I have an easel, small carts and a big-wheeled island table where I store my paints and other art supplies. In a corner of my studio, I have my bookshelf, small toy cars, and cartoon characters collection. 

What are you working on right now? What was the inspiration behind it? 

I just started a big canvas work about women and girls in Afghanistan. It shows how their dreams are dying with each passing day. 

Image of Mural by Afghan artist Shamsia Hassani
Dreaming Graffiti by Shamsia Hassani

How has your life experience informed your work? 

I paint every piece of art with my feelings and soul. My current life, memories and everything happening around the world inspire me to create art. 

What music do you listen to when you work, and why? Are there any specific songs or artists that inspire you? 

I used to be someone who couldn’t live without music but recently, I’ve barely listened to it. Maybe I am not strong enough to listen to music anymore. Music doesn’t give me the power and energy like it did before; it drains my energy and good vibes. Instead of listening to music, I watch a lot of movies and TV series while working on my artworks. I don’t concentrate much on the movie or TV show playing in the background; I mostly concentrate on my work. Sometimes, I follow the story to keep myself engaged. Movies and TV series distract me and help me avoid my current life problems and past memories. It helps my brain take a break and stop overthinking. 

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What first inspired you to start creating street art? 

To introduce art to people who never had the chance to visit a gallery or get invited to exhibitions. To make art for everyone, not for a specific group of people. To cover the bad memories of war from walls by painting over them, to give temporary hope to people, inspire other women to show their abilities, and to create large-scale art pieces (murals) that would become a part of a city and people’s daily lives. 

What is the best advice you have ever received? 

Live in the present. 

What do you do when you need to feel inspired? 

I close my eyes for a few seconds to see what is new inside me. Then, I start putting rough lines and shapes on paper until I bring out what I saw when I looked inside. During this process, I should be alone; otherwise, the results don’t come out as pure as I want. 

What’s the piece of art you’re most proud of? 

I love one of my artworks that I painted before the fall of Kabul. While creating it, I was full of fear, stress, anxiety and a lot of hope at the same time. The artwork changed its message and meaning when the Taliban took over the country, so it became a dream forever. 

There’s a quote on your website saying: Art changes people’s minds, and people change the world – why do you feel art has such power? 

By this quote, I meant that art does not have the power to change the world directly or bring instant change like a miracle. Still, it has an indirect influence on society. Art changes people’s minds gradually, and then people bring positive change to society. Art pieces need to be viewed and felt by those who have the power to understand them. Art is not felt by every mind; not everyone has the ability to transfer their feelings to their souls. Unfortunately, there is a small number of people who look at art and believe that it can bring positive change to society. Art needs a society that understands it, feels the need for it and accepts its importance. Once art is felt, understood and its importance is accepted, then positive change will follow. 

Shamsia Hassani: 5 Activists & Artists Who Inspire Me 

Angelina Jolie 

The Hollywood star and former UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy uses her platform to champion refugees, women’s rights and global diplomacy. 

Zolaykha Sherzad 

Afghan designer and founder of Zarif Design Zolaykha Sherzad empowers Afghan women through economic opportunities and the promotion of traditional craftsmanship. 

Narges Noori 

Noori is a freelance illustrator currently serving a fellowship at the University of Alberta under the Artist Protection Fund. She is also an instructor at the University of Kabul. 

Tracy Lee Stum 

Renowned American street painter Tracy Lee Stum is a pioneer in 3D street art, transforming urban spaces globally with her innovative and immersive public art installations. 

Arezo Hassani 

Contemporary Afghan illustrator and animator Arezo Hassani explores identity through their childlike fictional figures.  

Pia Brynteson is Digital Editor at Service95 

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