Shamsia is an Afghan graffiti artist, fine arts lecturerand professor at Kabul University. She paints over the war-affected places in Kabul to show people the war through her vibrant colored shapes and figures. In December 2010 she learned graffiti and became the first Afghan female artist to practice this kind of street art on the houses in Kabul. Her motto: “Art is stronger than war”. She proposed to organize annual graffiti workshops throughout the country to try making this art form being viewed more positively. Shamsia often paints women in traditional clothing or women in symbolic shapes and fishes because they are symbols of the atmosphere around her and her own life experiences. In her graffiti she wishes to wash away the memories of long-time war taken place in her country. She wants to introduce this form of art to everybody. But because not everyone can afford to go to an art exhibition, she brings the exhibition to the people. She was one of the top 10 artists for the second Afghan Contemporary Arts Prize in 2009. Since than she has been part of solo and group exhibitions all over the world. As if that’s not enough, she’s also one of the founders of Berang Arts Organization.
In 2014, the Army published a controversial update to their female hair regulations that prohibited the use of braids, twists and other traditional black protective hairstyles. The natural hair community was livid, and rightfully so! Black female soldiers depended on these braided and twisted hairstyles to keep their hair healthy while in the field, and to ultimately stay focused on their jobs at hand! One black female soldier stepped up and bravely penned the exact petition that helped bring awareness to this issue at the government level, which ultimately reversed the racially-biased regulations! Her name is Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs. “I honestly didn’t feel like I had a choice. Here was this organization that I had devoted my time and my life to, figuratively and literally when I deployed to Iraq in 2008, that was saying that there was something wrong with the way my hair was naturally… that my hair was unkempt, matted and unprofessional. For me, going natural is the most amazing self-love journey you can take and I didn’t want little brown girls thinking that there was anything wrong with them or their hair in its natural state; that it wasn’t welcomed or deemed as professional as other hair. I was told that I needed to wear a wig, relax my hair, or get micros… which were all damaging options. I just refused to accept it as the final answer. I grew up very stubborn, and “no” is just a challenge for me.”
After witnessing, firsthand, the shame cast on menstruating girls in Kenya, Selah Piper, age 14, and Isabella (Bella) Bunkers, age 15, both 9th graders at the country’s International School in Nairobi, set out on a determined mission. Their goal was to break this taboo, while addressing the lack of access to sanitary products, as both push far too many underprivileged Kenyan girls to drop out of primary school, limiting their potential and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Since launching their Project Imagine in 2015, the impact Selah and Bella have made through this self-propelled, grassroots distribution and education program for girls is nothing short of extraordinary. Project Imagine specifically works with primary schools because Selah and Bella tell us that it’s in grades 6-8 “when girls are most likely to drop out of school due to their menstrual cycle.” Over the last two years, Selah and Bella have since organized and made 6 sanitary towel distribution visits to two primary schools in Murang’a county, and have grown their Project Imagine team to a small, but mighty force of six. As Selah put it so perfectly, “A day longer in school is just that much more knowledge a girl will gain, and knowledge is power.”
Have a positive week,
Love Neon Moon x
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