Shamsia Hassani is the first well-known female street artist in Afghanistan. Through her art, she aims to subvert the perspective of Muslim women as oppressed and belonging to the home–a view held by many in her own community and the in the Western world. Her characters are most often depicted wearing burkas or hijabs, and are seen outside, holding musical instruments that represent freedom of voice and expression. The compositions are rendered with distinct lines and decisive shapes to convey strength in her characters. Hassani strives to destroy the association of hijabs with oppression by illustrating characters who find freedom within tradition, and are not restricted by expected gender roles.
Hassani also portrays feelings of displacement and a rejection of nationality dealt with by Afghan refugees; her characters are often distanced from their surroundings, looking at them from above. In her piece, Birds of No Nation, she explains, “Birds are constantly migrating to find food and shelter, they have no nationality because they find comfort in any safe place. I see this in the Afghan people as well, they are moving from country to country in search of peace and safety. It seems as if they have no nation like those birds. In this series, the woman is in a new area and she is feeling displaced because nothing is hers and so she does not fit in.” Shamsia Hassani challenges established perspectives and recreates an identity for Afghan women that transcends limits of nationality and marginalization.