An Afghan artist with his group of art students have been doing there best to bring hope to their city by painting on government built protective walls.
Forty years of wars and explosions have changed the face of Afghanistan. In its capital city, Kabul, grey walls, stand along major roads, becoming a symbol of a city within a city. They were built by the Afghan government, foreign institutions and important political figures in order to fend against suicide bombings that frequently disrupt the city.
These protective walls have not only changed the face of the city, they have also cast a shadow over people's minds. That's why Omaid, a young artist who has worked with an NGO to fight against human rights violations and corruption for 12 years, decided to pick up his paint brushes and make a difference. He and his ArtLords Group, mostly consisting of art students, started to paint on these walls after months of waiting for permission from local authorities.
The first painting was a success.
"So the first painting was about a pair of eyes and the message was that I see you. It means I see your corruption is not hidden from God and people's gaze. We know that you are doing all the injustices. You're corrupt. We will do something about this, we will raise awareness. We will come to you. We will take you to justice," said Omaid.
The paintings have received great feedback from the local people, and have become symbols of Omaid's Art Lords Group. It speaks to the hearts of the Kabul residents who have suffered greatly from corruption. And now the paintings of eyes can be found on many of the protective walls in Kabul.
Omaid's focus has also shifted to other issues including refugees, women, and children's education. The latest subject matter that he is engaging with concerns, "heroes of the times". His artwork is composed of heroes from both Afghanistan and other countries who led the people to fight against suppression and injustice.
"I really want to bring these people out here to remind them that we have great statesmen. We don't have to follow the warlords and the drug lords and the people with the guns. These are the people that have to be our role models," said Omaid while painting Amanullah Khan, the Sovereign of the Kingdom of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, who pursued an independent foreign policy free from the influence of the United Kingdom.
These paintings have drawn the attention of many people who stop to talk to Omaid about his work. "It's good to see the painting of our hero Amanullah Khan on the wall. Apart from talking about corruption in front of these paintings, we have to take action," said Mohammad Raza, a public servant in Kabul.
In 2001, U.S. backed coalition force began a bombing campaign in Afghanistan in early October 2001, just weeks after the September 11 attacks. After defeating and driving away Taliban forces, they remained in Afghanistan in order to promote stability. Despite efforts to bring peace to the country, suicide bombings continue to frequently occur, making people live in terror.
The paintings and these artists are gradually changing the lives of people in Kabul and hopefully. In this case, the saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword", will prove to be right.