Participant interview: 'Saeeda'

"Being part of Ascend gave me the confidence to show people my paintings. Now I sell my work to people from around the world," says Saeeda.

Saeeda working on her latest art piece. © Ascend/Daniel Wheeler

Q. When did you start drawing?

I started drawing at home when I was 5 years old. I only had one pencil. When I became a teenager I started art classes and since then, I draw or paint nearly every day.

Q. How do your family feel about your art?

My father told me not to go to art classes and that I should concentrate on doing things that will make money. He told me that I should go to English classes instead and gave me money to do so. I used that money to go to art classes instead. After 2 months, he realised that I wasn't going to English classes but he never said anything. When I joined Ascend in 2016, I sold my first painting for $100. After that, my father said now I can pay for the English lessons!

Q. How is art perceived in Afghanistan?

It’s dangerous for young female artists. Females aren’t encouraged to show emotion here. I believe that girls should be allowed to expressed themselves. To show their heart. But people don’t consider it important here. People don’t want a woman to say what is in their heart. We are oppressed. In Afghanistan, people don’t really buy art. Usually, people only like drawings of themselves.

Q. How does your art make you feel?

When I am painting, I feel like I’m not here. In my painting, I can see my dream. It takes me to another place - to a place where I am not oppressed.

A collection of Saeeda's latest art work. © Ascend/Daniel Wheeler

Q. What do you enjoy painting?

I enjoy pushing the boundaries of art in Afghanistan. I like to try new things and recently, I have created some nude paintings. But in Afghanistan, the people cannot accept nude paintings. Two or three times, I have shown these painting at exhibitions. They took my paintings off the wall and hid it. They said this is bad in Afghanistan and this is not our culture. My hope is to one day have an international exhibition. I would like to show my work without preconceptions.

Q. How does your father feel about your art now?

When my father is asleep at home, I go into another room and do painting. Only my mother knows that I paint at home. One day, I arrived home to see my father had put all my paintings outside the house. My father approves of me coming to Ascend but still does not understand my art. It wasn’t very important that my art wasn’t approved by my father when I was young. But now I am older I crave the approval of my father.

Q. Where do you display your art?

Before joining Ascend, I couldn’t show my paintings. I just painting in private. When I started at Ascend 3 years ago, they facilitated my visits to embassies. The Ascend staff and volunteers helped me show my art to the international people working in Kabul. Being part of Ascend also gave me the confidence to show people my paintings. Now I sell my work to people from around the world.
When international people see my art and appreciate it, I feel that some people in the world like my work, At these time, I feel so happy.

"When I am painting, I feel like I’m not here. In my painting, I can see my dream," says Saeeda (pictured above). © Ascend/Daniel Wheeler

About Saeeda Saeeda is 19 years old and has 4 sisters. She has been a participant at Ascend since 2016. As a senior participant, Saeeda helps mentor the new participants and provides both technical and emotional support.

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