Celebrate International Women’s Day with Afghanistan’s first female graffiti artist

Afghan artist and activist Shamsia Hassani will join students in an artistic demonstration and discussion tomorrow in honor of the day.

Words, at Kabul, Afghanistan, by Shamsia Hassani.

In honor of International Women’s Day tomorrow, Shamsia Hassani, Afghanistan’s first female graffiti artist, will create a large-scale art piece and interact with students at Alumni Park in an event facilitated by Visions and Voices.

The event is one of a three part series titled “Birds of No Nation,” which seeks to highlight the use of art and creative expression to address the issues women are facing around the world.

In 2016, Hassani presented a collection of artwork under the same name to honor those who have had to flee their home of Afghanistan. The country is experiencing one of the largest humanitarian refugees crises after a 20-year-war and subsequent takeover by the Taliban in 2021.

“This series is about those Afghans who migrate to other countries, Afghans who don’t have a nationality anymore, who are from nowhere, and those Afghan who seek security and peace,” Hassani said on her website.

Keeping with her theme of showcasing strong and independent women figures, Hassani’s “Birds of No Nation” series displays women looking out onto city landscapes and playing piano, representing the agony and loneliness that arises from having to leave the only place you’ve ever known.

Sophie Lesinska, a USC literary studies librarian who helped organize the event, is hopeful that Hassani’s demonstration will draw needed attention to the cause.

“The world is forgetting,” Lesinska said. “I hope that this will express our solidarity with the women of Afghanistan – their struggle continues, and young women of Afghanistan are not giving up.”

Prior to the Taliban taking control, Hassani served as a fine arts lecturer at Kabul University, before seeking refuge abroad. While in Afghanistan, Hassani could be seen rushing through the streets of Kabul, creating vibrant murals on buildings that were either abandoned or bombed.

Now, Hassani organizes graffiti festivals, art classes, and exhibitions, inspiring other Afghan women to use their creativity for good.

In 2016, Hassani upheld a residency at Hammer Museum, painting a mural in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.

In a YouTube video by the Creator’s Project, Hassani highlights art’s role in social change.

“People get tired of words,” Hassani said. “Art is kind of a friendly way to fight with every problem.”

Hassani’s art demonstration will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Alumni Park on Wednesday, March 8. She will be joined by Najiba Ayubi, Afghan journalist and activist, and Gazelle Samizay, an Afghan American artist, for a panel discussion later that evening at 7 p.m.

“I am tremendously excited about tomorrow’s event,” Lesinka said. “This is a fascinating panel, and I’m curious how they will show us this face of Afghanistan, of the Afghan women that we might not be familiar with.”