Say it with - Spray Cans

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Say it with - Spray Cans

Alaa Ghazal: Down With.. Picture from Heinrich Von Arabien
 
Where art the key discipline in the conflict between Syrian revolutionaries and the regime, the outcome would be a clear case. Confronted with the creative bloom amongst the opposition, the regime, whose understanding of art is primarily expressed in its repeated commissioning of presidential portraits to talentless artists, simply does not stand a chance. Fearing his sharp pen, the state instructed thugs to break the hands of caricaturist Ali Farzat in 2011. He for his part countered the attack with a self-portrait from his hospital bed.

An aesthetic disaster is to be expected whenever spray cans fall into the hands of Assad’s followers and, in effect, there is no point in making the effort to read their productions.

Their repertoire consists of few but tenaciously repeated scrawly slogans: “Assad or no one”, “Assad forever or we will burn down the country” – or the signature the Syrian army was accustomed to leave behind beside gunned down livestock and bombed granaries in places they had devastated: “Liwa al Maut” – “Brigade of Death”.

Facing this we find the brilliant banners of the small locality Kafranbel in northern Syria. Legendary are the “Saraqeb Walls” on which poetry and prosaicism blend. One piece of calligraphy admonishes: “Say to those who collect the waste: thank you!”, another reads “Sing for those who went missing” or “Besieged by death”.

The most recent graffiti one-liner of artist Alaa Ghazal shows a character indicated by a beard and a soldier’s helmet, beside which it reads “Down with the regime”. Neither, it further reads, does one want to be reigned by the military ruling on Assad’s side, nor by Islamists who hold sway in liberated areas.

First published on August 1 on Heinrich von Arabien.
Translated from the German by Christine F.G. Kollmar

 

 
 

About the Author

Dr. Bente Scheller is director of the hbs Middle East office in Beirut. She specializes in foreign and security policy and holds a PhD of Free University of Berlin on Syria. Before coming to Beirut in 2012, she was head of hbs' Afghanistan office in Kabul.
 
 
 
 
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