Afghanistan’s first female street artist brings her art to North Sacramento

Jeff vonKaenel

I have never been to Afghanistan. But now, on the Sacramento News & Review’s exterior, the hope and spirit of this war-torn country is brilliantly displayed in a stunning mural by Shamsia Hassani.

Recognized as Afghanistan’s first female street artist, Shamsia spent six days at our building painting her mural of a woman with long hair blowing in the wind playing a gigantic piano-like guitar over a sea of buildings while bats fly around the foggy sky.

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. And it’s even more dangerous for a female street artist breaking social norms. She told us that in Afghanistan, when she’s painting on the street, she’s scared all the time and must watch out for potential harassers. As a result, she’s learned to paint quickly, because often she only has a small window of time to complete her work.

Shamsia told us that while the woman in her mural has no mouth, the musical instrument is her voice, speaking strongly and powerfully. The ram’s horns on each side of the woman’s head are for protection. And the bats flying around in the sky represent the many bad things in the world that she faces. She says she hopes her art will inspire others, especially women, and give people a more complex and positive picture of Afghanistan.

Shamsia told us that the reason she paints outside is because not everyone can go to museums, so she likes to take her art to the people. She wants her art to be seen by everyone.

I love the Crocker Art Museum and go regularly. But now I’ll see art every day when I park in our parking lot, just as I see many Sacramento murals on a daily basis.

We are so grateful to David Sobon and his Wide Open Walls (WOW) project. This year, WOW added 40 more murals to Sacramento’s walls. He is slowly transforming the streetscape of our town. David has worked tirelessly to make this happen. Sacramento has received much national and international recognition for our murals, which make our city a more beautiful place to live.

Our building is an old, 19,000-square-foot former supermarket on Del Paso Boulevard that stood vacant for many years. With help from former City Councilmember Sandy Sheedy, the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Redevelopment Agency, we bought the building and remodeled it as a green building on a budget. We are proud of our building and love being here in North Sacramento, where we have been warmly welcomed over the last eight years.

My role in our building remodel was to encourage my wife and longterm business partner, Deborah Redmond. My role in the mural project was also only supportive. Our tenant, the Council for American Islamic Relations Sacramento Valley, raised the funds to bring Shamsia to the United States. We are grateful.

It was inspiring to meet Shamsia and her husband, Haroon Noori. We admired her bravery. We were impressed by her artistic vision. Over six days, we had the privilege to get to know a determined, quiet woman whose art shows the power of a woman with a voice to stand up against what is bad in the world.

We are honored to have her mural on our wall.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.