Afghan Street Artists Strive To Beautify Kabul

Guest Writer: Jennifer Glasse / Source Al Jazeera

His plan is to make Kabul the graffiti capital of the world, one mural at a time. It won’t be an easy task; there are kilometres of blast walls in the Afghan capital, symbols of the perilous security here.

Artist Kabir Mokamel and a group of supporters have started the project with their own money.

“Our first goal is to contribute something to beautify Kabul,” he explains. “Plus, Kabul has all of these blast walls, and they look extremely ugly.

“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 first piece Mokamel and the volunteers painted is a giant pair of women’s eyes, brown, piercing.

"I’m watching you. Corruption is not hidden from God or the people’s eyes."  

“I’m watching you. Corruption is not hidden from God or the people’s eyes.”

The message, against a bright yellow background, reads: “I’m watching you. Corruption is not hidden from God or the people’s eyes.”

 Another piece features Afghans toting hearts in a wheelbarrow, and a heart with a band aid across it. “It’s about healing the wounds of the country,” Mokamel explains.

We arrive as Mokamel is starting a new series “Heroes of my City,” to celebrate everyday people as heroes. When we first get there, the mural doesn’t look like much – a few bits of colour on the white wall. “It’s a complicated piece, it has 32 colours, the anti-corruption one had only nine,” the artist says.To make the outline of the piece, the painting of three street sweepers has been projected on the wall and drawn in pencil. Mokamel, his volunteers and anyone who would like to participate may help paint it.

Children who usually beg among the busy Pashtunistan square traffic come over to see what’s happening.   Soon, painter Maryam Kohi is talking to a young boy then hands him a paintbrush. She has worked on several of the murals, despite recent car bombs that have many Afghans concerned about security.  Mokamel and his volunteers worked several hours in mornings and evenings, but security concerns halted painting for several days

‘Ordinary heroes’

“All people are living in fear so with this Art, we can change the look of the city, and give a message of peace to the people and a message of acceptance of each other,” Kohi says.

Mohammad Nabi, an old man who was walking by, paints text about ordinary heroes, alongside a policeman who has also accepted a paint brush from Mokamel.

This is what the artist wants, to bring people together.

“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,” Mokamel 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.”

Accidental painter Nabi says his few minutes at the wall have made him feel patriotic, that he’s helped do something to make the city clean, to show that he loves Afghans and Afghanistan.

“People get messages through these paintings, and godwilling everyone, our children become educated and understand these things,” Nabi says.

“Even people who have no education can understand the message when they see this.”

That’s another of Mokamel’s goals with his paintings, to create what he calls visual literacy.  Many Afghans cannot read or write. He wants to use art to simplify the many complications of Afghan life.

“For me the metaphor is we have a lot of problems in Afghanistan very complex problems, being it economical, being it social, or political,” he says.

“What we want to do is to show them through these simple paintings, block colors, is that you can actually break down these complex things into elements, and then you can pull them apart and put them together to make something new.”

His painting of street sweepers is complex, with many tiny areas for the 32 colours. It takes him and his volunteers longer than he thought it would to complete – about two weeks.  They worked several hours in mornings and evenings, but security concerns halted painting for several days after car bombs and other attacks had the people of Kabul on edge.  The street sweeper painting is the first in the series honouring ordinary Afghans.

Mokamel and his volunteers worked several hours in mornings and evenings, but security concerns halted painting for several days

Mokamel and his volunteers worked several hours in mornings and evenings, but security concerns halted painting for several days

“We want to shift the paradigm of heroism in Afghanistan,” Mokamel says. “It has always been heroes with guns or with swords, you know?

“So we want to celebrate the people that we see every day who are working on the street.”

Other murals will be of boys and girls going to school, and an old man on a bicycle, a hero for not adding to Kabul’s pollution and traffic.

Afghan contributions only

Mokamel does not want any international or government aid money. He would like to complete this project with money donated by regular Afghans. That way it’s their project, he says.  International money hasn’t been well allocated. “For example, a lot of money was spent on anti-corruption campaigns, more than $700m,” he says. “But you see corruption is actually increasing, not decreasing. There should be initiative from the people and for the people to start combating these things.”

Mokamel hopes the project will get even bigger.  He plans to invite international graffiti artists to Kabul to paint their works.  If they don’t want to come because of security or other reasons, then he will ask them to donate their designs for his volunteers to paint.  He knows it’s an ambitious project, but he hopes it will help change the way the world sees Afghanistan.

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

Al Jazeera / blog    Photo Credits to Al Jazeera

Marin IJ –Why Save World Draw? About Birdie Girl

MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL
Marin Snapshot: “Fairfax Artist Finds Calling As Foster Mom for Hummingbirds”
by Jennifer Upshaw
POSTED: 05 / 01 / 2010

Above Photo/Jeff Vendsel   A pair of hummingbirds fed by artist and conservationist Brenda Sherburn, Director of www.saveworlddraw.org through WildCare fosters cares hummingbirds.

Artist and conservationist Brenda Sherburn of Fairfax, who has cared for infant hummingbirds for more than a decade, says one of the biggest challenges is feeding the tiny birds. ‘They digest their food very quickly…. They re so little you can t feed them a lot,’ she says.  Artist and conservationist Brenda Sherburn’s life is always humming.

Sherburn, who has lived in the Fairfax hills for 14 years, has spent nearly a decade serving as a foster mother to baby hummingbirds scooped up by the San Rafael-based animal rehabilitation organization WildCare. A sculptor and sketch artist with a particular fascination for winged creatures, Sherburn will teach a class this May at Riley Street Art Store in San Rafael on “Birds As an Inspiration for Art,” a course for kids age 8 and older.  She is director of www.saveworlddraw.org, an organization that creates art to help fill wishes for conservation.

Q: How did you get into fostering hummingbirds?

A: I was working in Belize in 2001 and I helped build an educational center for wildlife with the Belize Audubon Society … when I came back 9/11 hit.  It just hit me; I felt I needed to volunteer and be doing something to try to make the world a better place.

Q: How many hummingbirds do you foster at any given time?

A: I think six would be the maximum that I’ve had at a time.  When I have really tiny ones like in an incubator, you know, just a couple, that is very time consuming because you are attached to the incubator and 20-minute feedings until they get big enough to be outside. Then it’s not too bad because you can take them outside in a little basket and it’s really easy to feed them and they move along until we release them.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in fostering hummingbirds?

A: Not to overfeed them and to really make sure your timer is on. Twenty minutes go – you just get into a pace.

Q: Why is timing important?

A: They digest their food very quickly and in the wild the mother bird is constantly feeding them and they’re so little you can’t feed them a lot. They are growing constantly and their little bill will just kind of grow out and get longer and longer and they start doing the little tongue thing. It’s really a miracle.

Q: What attracts you to these particular birds?

A: It really clicked when I was in Belize. I saw hundreds of birds everywhere and other wildlife. When I came back I just realized that our wildlife is really in jeopardy. We need to take time to do what we can to preserve it.  As far as getting onto the hummingbird team, it was just timing.  They needed somebody and at that point I was ready.  I must add, it also works great with my art because it’s inspirational,  it’s magical – it just makes me observe the world in a better way.

Contact Jennifer Upshaw via e-mail at jupshaw@marinij.com
Comments:
Tahir Khan Arzani

Jan 19, 2015
This is excellent Brenda, you are doing great inspirational work. You have inspired many people around the world.

Brenda SaveWorldDraw

Jan 19, 2015
You’re sweet, Tahir.  This article is actually part of my bio series I’m putting together for my website.  When I think back on all those baby hummingbirds I raised, I am not sure how I ever did it.  Blessings come to us in unexpected ways.  Thank you.

You are welcome Brenda, you deserve much more recognition then this. It is good to know that you are putting together your biography for your website. You should also do it for your book.

Pakistan: Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at UN, 2013

Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the UN

In the name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful. Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, Respected President General Assembly Vuk Jeremic Honourable UN envoy for Global education Mr Gordon Brown, Respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters;

Today, it is an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life.

I don’t know where to begin my speech. I don’t know what people would be expecting me to say. But first of all, thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me.

I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and all of the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me get better and recover my strength. I fully support Mr Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of the UN Special Envoy Mr Gordon Brown. And I thank them both for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action.

Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.

So here I stand…. one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.

I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.

Those who have fought for their rights:Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.

Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban.

I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad-the prophet of mercy, Jesus christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.

The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than sword” was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. And that is why they killed 14 innocent medical students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they killed many female teachers and polio workers in Khyber Pukhtoon Khwa and FATA. That is why they are blasting schools every day. Because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.

I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist, “Why are the Taliban against education?” He answered very simply. By pointing to his book he said, “A Talib doesn’t know what is written inside this book.” They think that God is a

tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Pakistan is peace-loving democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. And Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child’s right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility.

Honourable Secretary General, peace is necessary for education. In many parts of the world especially Pakistan and Afghanistan; terrorism, wars and conflicts stop children to go to their schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many parts of the world in many ways. In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labour. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by the hurdles of extremism for decades. Young girls have to do domestic child labour and are forced to get married at early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems faced by both men and women.

Dear fellows, today I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights rather I am focusing on women to be independent to fight for themselves.

Dear sisters and brothers, now it’s time to speak up.

So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity.

We call upon the world leaders that all the peace deals must protect women and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the dignity of women and their rights is unacceptable.

We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world.

We call upon all governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm.

We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of educational opportunities for girls in the developing world.

We call upon all communities to be tolerant – to reject prejudice based on cast, creed, sect, religion or gender. To ensure freedom and equality for women so that they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave – to embrace the strength within

themselves and realise their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.

Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future.

So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First.