Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Power of Graffiti II

"We want to shift the paradigm of heroism from people with weapons
to ordinary people who actually do something good." 
Kabir Mokamel

The Afghan capital of Kabul is to all intents and purposes is a war zone. And as such the city has become a military base with a mushrooming of towering concrete blast walls designed to protect powerful individuals, government offices, foreign embassies and other international organizations.
This has angered the Afghan artist and graphic designer Kabir Mokamel.

As he told the German Press Agency dpa international "Those who are supposed to protect us are inside the wall. And we are outside the wall, without any security. All the upheaval that you see around is because of the people on the other side of the wall. We have so many security walls in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, which makes the whole city extremely ugly. If we put images on them, it would at least beautify the city, to some extent, with some really good messages for change."

Born in 1968, the 47 year old sought refuge in Australia in his early twenties before the country introduced its draconian anti-refuge stance. Whilst there Mokamel gained a Diploma in Fine Arts from Seaforth TAFE in Sydney and then went on to study graphic design at the University of Canberra. Four years ago he returned to Afghanistan.

As he told Al Jazeera English "Psychologically, when I come into Kabul I feel under siege. So we're painting some strategic pieces of art in order to educate the public. When you put a picture on a wall, the wall disappears and you are in a new space, that's very important for me."

The latest work An Ordinary Hero - the hero of my city (see above) depicts street sweepers and adorns the blast walls protecting the Afghan Central Bank.

Taking about two weeks to complete, the self-funded project saw volunteers flesh out Mokamel’s design.

"They are just passers-by, they're curious about what we are doing. Sometimes they have a bit of apprehension and we just invite them to come and paint," he says. "They always say they have never painted in their life, we say, just try it, and then they do and some come back the next day."

The self-funding aspect of the project is also very important to Mokamel.

"I want to tell to the international community that we can do this campaign by ourselves, seriously. We just need their moral support, not their money anymore,” he states.

“It's time for Afghanistan and for the world to contribute something else other than weapons and war. We have been through war for the past 36 years, it's really time to give art and artists a chance." 

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