‘We planted a seed’: the Afghan artists who painted for freedom

11 months ago 155

Negina Azimi felt daze and fearfulness similar ne'er earlier erstwhile she heard that Taliban fighters had entered Kabul connected 15 August. As an outspoken pistillate creator successful Afghanistan, she knew they would travel for her.

“We heard reports that the Taliban mightiness raid houses. I was frightened due to the fact that I unrecorded successful a precise cardinal neighbourhood and each country successful my location is adorned with the benignant of creation the Taliban won’t o.k. of,” she says, referring to paintings that diagnostic messages astir women’s empowerment and are captious of the Taliban’s atrocities.

Azimi rushed location from the workplace wherever she worked, ArtLords, and took down each her work, cautiously stashing the paintings distant successful places wherever she hoped they could not beryllium found. “But truthful overmuch of our enactment is extracurricular connected the walls of the city, and everyone knows us,” she says, referring to the ArtLords’ inaugural of coating murals connected the heavy factual anti-blast walls that screen astir of the war-ravaged capital. “We heard that the Taliban enquired astir america to the shopkeepers and asked for our addresses. They wanted to punish us.”

Negina Azimi, ArtLords
  • Negina Azimi, who is present successful a exile campy successful Albania with others of the ArtLords collective. They are present readying an exhibition

Azimi was 1 of a fig of artists who made it connected to an evacuation formation successful the days that followed, leaving down years of hard enactment and efforts to revive the Afghan creation scene. From exile successful exile camps successful Europe, they person watched online arsenic the Taliban erased their murals, 1 aft another. The hardliners had painted implicit galore ArtLords images and replaced them with the words, Ham Watan Azadet Mubarak – a connection congratulating the citizens connected their “freedom”.

“I can’t explicit however wounded I felt erstwhile I saw connected societal media that the Taliban had whitewashed the mural of the Afghan women’s orchestra; it was my archetypal portion with ArtLords,” she says.

An ArtLords painting.
An ArtLords work.
Fatima Wojohat, 18
The ArtLords assemblage   successful  Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • Top row, works by ArtLords. Above left, Fatima Wojohat, 18, who joined ArtLords 4 months ago. Above right, The ArtLords assemblage successful Kabul

“Much of our creation was astir the 20 years of conflict for Afghan women, astir justness and state of speech. We had chosen to represent Afghan heroes to animate the adjacent generation, which the Taliban erased,” says different Afghan creator successful exile, who wishes to beryllium identified lone arsenic Muhajir (which means exile successful Dari).

“I was forced to permission everything I built and created behind. Wherever I spell now, this volition ever beryllium my identity: I volition ever beryllium a muhajir,” helium says.

Afghan artists overgarment   a mural connected  a wall
  • ArtLords artists overgarment a mural connected a partition of the women’s affairs ministry to people International Women’s Day successful Kabul 2 years ago

Shamsia Hassani is an Afghan graffiti creator and creation prof astatine Kabul University, who besides managed to flight the Taliban. She says: “My state and my creation gave maine an identity. The time Kabul fell, I could not judge it; my bosom was connected fire.”

Hassani, similar galore Afghans of her generation, grew up arsenic a exile successful Iran due to the fact that of decades of war, and had returned to Kabul aft the autumn of the Taliban successful 2001. “Art was evolving there. The fig of artists and creation lovers was gradually increasing. Of course, determination were inactive galore who opposed art, but it was disposable for everyone and we had the state to beryllium an artist,” she says. “We had planted a effect and were watching it grow.”

The archetypal  representation  Shamsia Hassani painted aft  the autumn  of Kabul.
Work by Shamsia Hassani.
  • Works by the graffiti creator Shamsia Hassani: connected the near is the archetypal representation she painted aft the autumn of Kabul

Hassani’s distinctive benignant of graffiti – featuring a young pistillate with closed eyes – appeared connected galore walls successful the Afghan capital, a awesome of societal change, empowerment and peace. Much of her enactment has besides been erased.

“The plants I nurtured with years of effort and hopes were each destroyed,” she says.

“I utilized to judge that creation is stronger than war, but present I realise that warfare is stronger, and everything we built implicit 20 years could beryllium destroyed wrong minutes by its darkness,” she says. “The crushed I americium inactive coating present is to assistance myself enactment afloat and not descend successful this darkness.”

Graffiti creator  Shamsia Hassani
  • The graffiti creator Shamsia Hassani, who is present surviving successful exile

Lida Afghan is an Afghan-Dutch creator who has worked extensively successful Afghanistan but is present incapable to return. “When I deliberation of Afghanistan I get precise overwhelmed, and lately I find myself crying a lot. The lone comfortableness I get is done painting, which is besides my mode of communicating to the women successful the state that you are not alone,” she says.

Afghan woman, by Dutch-Afghan creator  Lida Afghan
  • Afghan woman, by the Dutch-Afghan creator Lida Afghan

Afghan’s caller pieces, which picture women’s rebellion successful her erstwhile home, often went viral connected societal media. “When I gully women, I effort to amusement however almighty they are, due to the fact that often Afghan women are seen arsenic victims and weak. I person seen women, from each parts of Afghanistan, and they are perpetually warring against the patriarchy,” she says.

“Art is simply a question – it is specified a cosmopolitan connection that tin talk to the people’s souls. And with it, I effort to accidental to Afghan women to not springiness up. My anticipation is that erstwhile they spot a portion similar that they consciousness empowered,” she says.

The artists who person fled Afghanistan stay undeterred and person been creating caller work, adjacent successful the exile camps. The ArtLords corporate continues to make caller pieces successful exile and hopes soon to enactment connected an accumulation of works by displaced artists.

“The Taliban tin whitewash each our enactment successful Kabul, but we volition ever person our overgarment and our brush. We volition combat backmost with that,” says Muhajir.

Shamsia Hassani from Dreaming Graffiti series
  • Shamsia Hassani’s imaginary graffito connected the cliffs of Bamiyan, wherever the Taliban destroyed immense Buddhist statues from the 5th period successful 2001. The representation is portion of her Dreaming Graffiti series, successful which she enlarges photographs of places she would similar to enactment graffiti, past paints a mural connected pictures of locations she tin lone imagination of