Pacifying Security Walls in Kabul

Let’s give art a chance. ArtLords of Kabul – a group of Kabul citizens are trying to change the face of Kabul city. Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, doesn’t look like a real capital. The suicide attacks, kidnappings and coordinated attacks always rock the city. And, when is there is no sound of ambulance sirens and explosions, the ugly big blast walls remind you that you are living in a war zone. Thus the founders and volunteers of ArtLords want to re-claim our city.

The aim of this campaign is to introduce the use of arts through visual means and explore its usability in effecting behavioral change in people in order to promote critical thinking and enhance active participation.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

Immediate objectives of ArtLords:
• Starting a dialogue amongst people around pressing social issues (promoting critical thinking)
• Giving ordinary people a voice
• Pacifying the psychological effects of concrete barriers
• Beautifying Kabul city
• Introducing creative means of addressing social issues and taboos through the soft power of art
• Discovering young talent
• Employing the subtle power of art to effect behavioral change
• Empowering people to start their own initiatives in addressing injustice

Long term goals of ArtLords:
1. Create a youth movement in order to hold the authorities accountable (addressing the culture of impunity)
2. Turning Kabul city into the street art capital of the world

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

Afghanistan suffers from a culture of conflict, corruption, irresponsibleness, a culture of impunity, violence and various other atrocities. To address these atrocities is the responsibility of all state actors.
The overall vision of the ‘Pacifying Walls’ campaign by ArtLords is to promote the message of peace in Afghanistan through the expressivity of the arts.

'Make Art Not War' aims to portray a visual representation of the communities' desire to move from war towards peace. Creating a relationship between people and art, by bringing art to the people, allows for a much-needed psychological shift that opens up people's minds to new prospects. The use of art opens up space for 'emotions without affiliation'. It stimulates critical thought and helps people understand that war is a commonly shared experience and that only a common effort, coming from within society, can bring about peace in Afghanistan..

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

In late 2011, ArtLords (then called Kabul Street) underwent its first trial by placing images symbolizing transformation and positive thinking on billboards around the city of Kabul, together with a contact number. The impact of this undertaking was instantaneous and the response overwhelming.

ArtLords volunteers painted graffiti on the security walls of Kabul. The images were about human rights and access to justice and were painted in public areas. Additionally, we produced video spots, hoodies and stickers for raising awareness on peace and anti-corruption in Afghanistan. The use of social media is cheap and effective in today’s Afghanistan. The graffiti, spots and messages to protect and respect women was shared via social media.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

- The President Announced Year 1394 – “Year of Empathy & Partnership”
- Partnership between Government, CSOs, the private sector and general public
- Change of Mindset and Enabled Smile, Togetherness, and Love
- Promotion of Culture of Peace, Tolerance and Acceptance
- Participation of Citizens/Participants
- Promoting Culture of Voluntarism – Citizenship - Sense of Responsibility and Action
- Created a light of hope – Massive Movement …Enabled Positive Change

CHALLENGES FACED

While painting the ugly security walls of Afghanistan's presidential palace, the guard on duty shouted 'leave or I will shoot you'. We didn't leave but finished our painting of the two eyes carrying a message of anti-corruption because we had an official permission letter from the Office of the President.

Afghanistan is among the 3 most corrupt countries and has been in conflict over the last 4 decades. It is extremely challenging to fight corruption and promote messages of peace. We will always face challenges by the security forces, insurgents and other actors. They blame us for being 'spies' for foreigners and even go so far as to call us infidels. However, it is our country and we have taken a responsibility to do our part.

LESSONS LEARNT

The biggest lessons learnt for ArtLords and this movement is the importance of cross-sectoral partnership between citizens, Government, the Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations.

We have representatives from all these sectors in our movement. We have given them the chance to own this movement.

Additionally, we learned that if you start a movement for a great cause such as peace and anti-corruption, you can always get many volunteer recruits and support from various actors. You just have to be transparent and accountable and keep the credibility of your movement.

That is what ArtLords is about!