Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Banksy-style graffiti hits streets of Kabul
Kabul’s Shehr-pu district was once a poor area, but since the Taliban fell and the capital’s population of foreigners swelled with security companies, NGOs and media companies, Shehr-pu’s slums have been replaced with awkwardly proportioned and garish mansions, squeezed next to each other and surrounded by some of the worst roads in the city.
But even more striking than the architecture in Shehr-pu is the sudden appearance of graffiti which looks like it could be the work of the anonymous British artist Banksy
Statements such as “cost of war?”, sprayed-on helicopters framed with dollar signs and opium poppies, have been stenciled onto concrete blast barriers and fences, an imitation of Banksy’s style.
Banksy, who has a big following around the world, rose to fame in the mid 2000s with his distinctive street art in London and other big cities in Britain. His murals often carry political messages and subjects have included Guantanamo Bay detainees, London policmen embraced in a kiss and a serene, green landscape painted on a wall built by Israel to fence-off the West Bank from Jerusalem.
There are many westerners living in Kabul at the moment, the elections in August brought a wave of fresh faces onto a community of expatriates from Europe, the United States and other developed economies where Banksy’s name and work are familiar. But the graffiti looks like it’s more likely be the work of a copy-cat artist who thinks Banksy ought to apply his satire to Kabul. While there are similarities in the style and the objective of the murals appears to be the same as the reclusive Bristolian, they lack the finesse and scale of Banksy’s work. And whether the graffiti is Banksy’s or not, the cultural reference might be lost on many Afghans who may not have heard of him.