‘No One Can Stop Me’: Afghan Artist Sughra Hussainy On Women’s Rights And Change Through Art

By Libby Solomon
Towson Times, Md.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Afghan artist Sughra Hussainy creates small, intricate paintings full of color and ornate detail and overlaid with calligraphy.

Towson Times, Md.

For months after Afghan artist Sughra Hussainy settled in the U.S. in October 2016, she could not bring herself to make art.

It was art, Hussainy thought, that drew threats from the Taliban, who did not like that she was a woman with art displayed in the Smithsonian and interviews in the American press.

It was art that forced Hussainy to abandon her home in Kabul, to make a new start in Towson with no English, no family, nothing familiar. It was art, she thought, that had made her life difficult.

But a few months later Hussainy realized she was lucky — she could speak out, she had the freedom to do what other women in her home country could not. She picked up a paintbrush, and thought to herself: “No one can stop me.”

Hussainy, 30, creates small, intricate paintings full of color and ornate detail and overlaid with calligraphy.

She uses traditional Afghan techniques: she makes her own paper, and crushes lapis lazuli into a pigment and mixes it to make paint. She trims fur off the backs of cats to make soft paintbrushes. A single foot-long painting can take six months to complete.

But much of Hussainy’s work incorporates contemporary elements that symbolize women’s empowerment. In many of her works are painted frames that surround women, to represent the “borders” Afghan women are often expected to stay within.

One painting features a woman’s hand, covered with henna, clasped in a defiant fist. Another, a self-portrait, has a yellow emoji painted atop part of Hussainy’s face, zipping its own mouth shut, to represent the demand that women be quiet. Some of these paintings are currently on display at Atwater’s at Kenilworth, where she used to work.
“But we should talk,” Hussainy said. “It shows we are the same. Man and woman are the same.”

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