I can hardly believe that 3 months have passed since the last quilt I made for the group '12 By The Dozen' was finished. Time really is flying. The last day of February was the day that the group unveiled their latest pieces of work based on a nominated artist. This time it was me who chose the artist to inspire us all and I decided to change the tone a little - instead of opting for a traditional / widely recognised fine artsit I chose a street artist named Shamsia Hassani. I think she is an incredible young woman. You can find out a little more about her here from her website.
This is a small selection of her work which demonstrates her strong individual style and subject matter.
Shamsia Hassani is not only a street graffitti artist, but also a fine arts professor in Afghanistan's largest university in Kabul. The aims of her work are many; she wants to change the way people inside Afghanistan feel after so many years of war - for her it is important to look to the future with hope and to portray women in a strong and modern way. She also wants to try and change the perception of Afghanistan to people from outside of her country. She is a realist and knows she can't change much by herself, but her message is that through her work she can play a small part, and if more people do that, then bigger change can seem possible.
Being a woman creating street art in what has been categorised as the worlds most dangerous country takes courage. There is sometimes hostility from a few who still have leanings towards the old beliefs of the Taliban, There are still abandoned land mines in some derelict buildings and occasionally other violent acts are still carried out within the city. It is not always safe to spray her art on the walls of old buildings - danger that is remote from our understanding here in the west. For this reason she developed an idea she calls 'Dreaming Graffitti', where she takes a photograph of a place or building and then creates her art onto that. An interesting interview between Shamisa Hassani and Dr. Jessica N. Pabón-Colón explains the concept better at the link below:
One of my favourite of Hassani's 'Dreaming Grafitti' pieces is of a place called Bamyan in Afghanistan where she has added her imagery to a photograph of some incredible cliff caves. To me, the concept and the imagery is inspirational.
For my piece inspired by Hassani's work I chose to use her idea of 'Dreaming Grafitti' and apply it to a photograph I took at the end of 2018. This is the original photo below. Whilst I find it an intreaguing place, it is very sad to think that this was once someone's home.
The location is not somewhere I think most people would expect to find a building in this sort of condition; in fact, I think it is a well kept 'secret' (I would say over half of all the buildings on the island were in a similar state or worse). A good proportion of the population of Grand Bahama have left the island as when the tourists stopped coming after the hurricane, their jobs in the hospitality industry disappeared. Hotel owners took their insurance money and left, so rebuilding did not happen. The tourists found other places to go and the Government lost a large amount of its tax revenue. As a result the whole place has a very bizzare sanitised abandoned look about it that is difficult to explain. Despite this, those who remain still have an optomistic outlook on life and have a stoic positive attitude. 'Forward, Upward, Onward Together is the Bahamian national motto, which I think is echoed in the message Hassani is also sending to the world.
Taking the photo I edited it using GIMP software and turned it into an image that I had printed onto fabric. This is not my usual method of work and I must admit, I felt a little uncomfortable with it, but I wanted to embrace the 'Dreaming Grafitti' concept, so I decided it was a good way to try out one of the many online companies that custom print fabric. I chose a company called 'Woven Monkey' http://www.wovenmonkey.com and the fabric I received was very good. Their website was easy to use, the fabric choices were numerous and the quality of the print was excellent. I chose a cotton sateen which has a nice feel. The whole process from order to delivery took less than a week. I also felt it was reasonably and competetively priced at a little over £21 for one metre (delivered).
This is the photo I uploaded to their site; I chose to make the building blue in recognition of the blue all-covering burqa that many Afghan women were forced to wear during the days of the Taliban.
Once I had the background fabric I was able to start to develop my idea for adding my version of Shamsia Hassani's 'Dreaming Graffiti'. I did not want to completely copy her imagery, but I do want to ackowledge that it was her work that was inspiring me. I tried to make the faces I drew similar, but not carbon copies of her work. I also wanted to portray the air of optimism that pervades Grand Bahama, despite the way things seem on the surface. This is a sketch of the face I used. I repeated the face several times, each time changing the angle a little to give the appearance of her gradually looking upward, raising her head and spirit. I also chose to give her a little expression, that of joy.
And here it is 'on' the building.
If Shamsia ever sees it, I hope she will like it.
To see the fabulous work created by the other members in '12 by the Dozen' inspired by Shamsia Hassani's work, please do visit our blog:
Thanks for reading.