Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Graffiti art brightens Kabul

January 6, 2011

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A group of women in burqas rises from the sea to symbolize cleanliness, while further down a factory wall a bus with no wheels and crammed with passengers is a stark comment on war-torn Kabul’s appalling public transport.

A new Afghan art collective called Roshd, or “growth,” has brought street art and graffiti to the conservative Muslim nation’s capital, starting with a mural on a three meter (10 feet) high wall in an industrial park. Soon they hope to take their creativity and commentary to the dusty city center, where blast walls, scrawled advertisements, political propaganda and armed guards are more usual sights.

Using spray paint for the first time, Ommolbanin Shamsia Hassani, 22, who is due to start teaching at Kabul University’s fine art faculty, painted the burqa-clad group. “Water is very clean and I want to show the women are clean too,” said Hassani. “It was the first time I was painting a big wall, I have always painted on small canvas … I have become very tired because it’s so big.”

Hassani and the other artists were working with a British graffiti artist who goes by the name Chu, who has been painting on walls for 30 years and has done projects including painting an entire train. He traveled from London for a one-week workshop. “In this very short space of time they have absorbed all the skills necessary to paint something huge,” Chu said. “It’s just magical what’s been happening before my eyes … The end result is that they just want to paint more.”

Some signed up for the workshop knowing almost nothing about the essence of the art form. “There is one reaction I will never forget and it was a concern that a big painting would be disturbing,” said Chu. “I said, ‘that’s the point’.”

Farid Khurrami, 29, a sculpture artist, painted the bus with no wheels moving past a man firing a gun in a bid to spotlight how bad public transport is in Kabul. “People are suffering very much in Kabul,” he said. “People will be very surprised by this new form of art, it is a better way to communicate with a broader audience.” “My message will be more about the peace and the money which the government is spending more on the military, I want it to be used more on the arts,” he said of his future graffiti plans.

┬áChu said that he hopes his students continue to paint more graffiti. “The more graffiti the better, Afghanistan will rock,” he said.

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