For many decades, the beauty of graffiti has been seen as a powerful form of art all around the world. Whether it is to convey a message, symbolise a purpose or just look beautiful, graffiti art is created by talented artists. Today, some of these graffiti artists are Muslim women living in the Middle East. They are fighting for what they believe in and are letting the world know about it, peacefully.
Shamsia is 29-years-old and lives in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the first female graffiti artist and the first 3D street art artist of Afghanistan. She often paints women in burqas and paints from her own life experiences all over the walls of Kabul. But being a graffiti artist has definitely been a challenge for Shamsia and it wasn’t always so easy for her to continually come up against traditionalist ideas. In these times, she would take photos of a spot in Kabul and she would draw on the photos, calling this concept ‘Dream of Graffiti’. In 2009, she was chosen as one of the Top 10 for the 2nd Afghan Contemporary Art Prize and since then, she has exhibited work in all parts of the world – Australia, Norway, America and Canada, just to name a few. A teacher of fine arts at Kabul University and one of the founders of the Berang Arts Organisation, she aims to make positive changes with her art and wants to lift the depressing memories of long-time war that ravished the country.
Malina is another talented Afghan street artist. The 27-year-old studied Realism Art at the Art Council in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2010, she graduated and moved back to Afghanistan, where she found her love for graffiti art through the Berang Arts Organisation. She herself also founded a local art group called Kandahar Fine Arts Association, with the aim to create a booming arts scene in Kabul. Malina’s art is about the generation she belongs to and the struggles they face. She hopes to be able to give society a social conscious which she feels is currently missing.
Sarah Al Abdali
Sarah is a 28-year-old street artist living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Originally from Hejaz, she still feels a deep connection with her birthplace and you can see this in her art. Sarah has been labelled one of Saudi Arabia’s first graffiti artists. She expressed herself through Islamic philosophy and Arab culture. Having studied at Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London for two years, Sarah has been part of international art festivals and has also exhibited her art at the Saatchi Gallery and the British Museum.
Growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Jordan, the Palestinian national can relate to exiled women in refugee camps today and hopes that her artwork provides them with support and creativity. Her first graffiti piece was called ‘Women on Walls’ which was the longest wall covered in graffiti the middle east had ever seen. The art work (which other women also contributed to) was about gender equality and how women are treated. She aims to help women express themselves and she believes that art is a means of making a change.
Laila is an anonymous Jerusalem-based ‘artivist’. She created street art to peacefully encourage Palestinians to speak up against the occupation. She is the spokesperson for an anonymous group who stencil the walls of Jerusalem with faces of women wearing the ‘kufiyyeh’ which is the Palestinian national symbol. She wants people to know that these used to be Palestinian neighbourhoods and that they are still there. She also aims to show people a peaceful way of resistance and not just the violent ways that is usually portrayed through the media.