Basharat Bashir

Syria, Graffiti in War

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In war torn Syria were millions of people have been displaced and thousands have lost their lives a local Syrian civil society organization, Kesh Malek(or checkmate) is working to supply humanitarian aid to common people. The organization was started by a group of young Syrians in late 2011 to help Syrians by organizing various campaigns.

Kesh Malek started ‘Banksy Syria’ a graffiti campaign named after the influential graffiti artist Banksy. Banksy Syria campaign started in early 2019, just as the military offensive in Idlib began to intensify. The aim of this campaign is to make world know what is happening in Idlib and Syria. To echo the voice of common people living there who reject war and hope for a peaceful future.

The people associated with this campaign include doctors, humanitarians, media journalists as well as people from other professions. For their safety and in homage to Banksy, most of the graffiti artists chose to keep their identity a secret. The graffiti mainly uses portraits of world known figures and events along with strong text usually written in English to expand the spectrum of the message by targeting international audiences. The campaign’s only focus is to highlight the situation in Idlib and Syria and to send a message to the world through graffiti.

Haleem Kawa, a Syrian refugee living in Turkey is one of the organizers working with Kesh Melek to run this graffiti campaign. Most of the graffiti’s demands the solidarity and support for the people of Syria. To make their message to reach more and more people the artwork is posted on social media. The aim and focus of the whole campaign is to bring forth the voice of people inside Syria which is subsided by scandalous war.  In an interview Kawa had said,

  “Our goals are to transfer the voice of people inside Syria abroad. The main messages you hear in media are just about war and killing. No one hears the voices of people. We want to raise their voices and show the world what these people believe in—freedom, dignity—and to put a spotlight on how the government is not giving these rights to people.”

Kawa has used graffiti as a form of resistance since he was a student. He had painted graffiti’s during the early days of the Syrian revolution. Kawa believes that the Banksy Syria campaign will continue despite constant threat of losing one’s life. He believes that no matter what Banksy Syria will make world know that civilians inside Idlib, including groups are doing what they can to help each other survive.

The graffiti in Syria illustrates the suffering of people in Syria and questions the silence of world leaders. Kawa in an interview had said, “We want the world to know the scale of the crimes and the pain inside Idlib and to know that the civilians are not the same as the terror organizations,” said Kawa. “The solution is not shelling and bombing. There are so many civilians inside Idlib who are against what’s going on. There are people resisting.”

One of the graffiti features the famous ‘Egg Boy’, the Australian teen who smashed an egg on the head of a far right politician for his anti Muslim remarks on fatal shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  In the graffiti the Egg Boy (Will Connolly) is shown egging Bashar al- Assad.

Another piece features the American Journalist Marie Colvin who died while covering the siege of Homos. Colvin worked with the British newspaper ‘The Sunday Times’ as foreign affairs correspondent. Her last words of her last broadcast which were ‘Why have we been abandoned’ is also the part of the graffiti.

Environmental Art

With the rise in the seriousness towards the life threatening climate change, environmental art is becoming an extremely significant movement around the world. Environmental Art is an interdisciplinary field and environmental artists without any hesitation implement ideas from science and philosophy. In environmental art, environment itself becomes the work of art raising issues related to the damage we humans are causing to it.  It attempts to raise awareness regarding global warming, deforestation, air pollution and degrading condition of our rivers and oceans.

In its early phase in 1960s the environmental art was mostly associated with sculpture- Site-specific art, and Land art, but gradually painting, photography, music, dance and other forms of human interaction mediums were also included in it. Environmental art encompasses other, similar movements, such as ecological art. Ecological art, or ecoart, is an artistic practice or discipline proposing paradigms sustainable with the life forms and resources of our planet. Rooted in Earthworks, Land Art, and landscape painting/photography Ecoart is not limited to artists.  Philosophers, scientists, and activists who are devoted to the practices of ecological art play an equally important role in promoting the idea of Ecoart. The main aim of Ecoart is to create awareness, stimulate dialogue, change human behavior towards other species, and encourage the long-term respect for the natural systems we coexist with.

Eco art by definition drawn collectively by Ecoart network is, ‘an art practice that embraces an ethic of social justice in both its content and form/materials’. Its aim is to inspire caring and respect, stimulate dialogue, and encourage the long-term flourishing of the social and natural environments in which we live. it uses various approaches to address the environmental issues including images and objects, projects involving volunteers to restore polluted environments; activist projects that engage others and activate change of behaviors or public policy; time-based social sculptures that involves communities in monitoring their landscapes and taking a participatory role in sustainable practices; ecopoetic projects, inspiring healing and co-existence with other species; direct-encounter artworks that involve natural phenomena such as water, weather, sunlight, or plants; pedagogical artworks that share information about environmental injustice and ecological problems such as water and soil pollution and health hazards; relational aesthetics that involve sustainable, off-the-grid, permaculture existences.

Environmental artists usually do not work with method, material and techniques that are detrimental to nature but there are some artists who are less concerned about the damage their artwork will incur to the environment. One of the examples of such an artwork which is criticized for damaging nature is the American artist Robert Smithson’s celebrated sculpture Spiral Jetty. The art piece inflicted permanent damage upon the landscape he worked with, using a bulldozer to scrape and cut the land, with the spiral itself impinging upon the lake. Similarly, criticism was raised against the European sculptor Christo when he temporarily wrapped the coastline at Little Bay, south of Sydney, Australia, in 1969. Conservationists’ comments attracted international attention in environmental circles and led contemporary artists in the region to rethink the inclinations of land art and site-specific art.

On the other hand British sculptor Richard Long has for several decades made temporary outdoor sculptural work by rearranging natural materials found on site, such as rocks, mud and branches, which will therefore have no lingering detrimental effect. Chris Drury instituted a work entitled “Medicine Wheel” which was the fruit and result of a daily meditative walk, once a day, for a calendar year. The deliverable of this work was a mandala of mosaicked found objects: nature art as process art.

Leading environmental artists such British artist and poet, Hamish Fulton, Dutch sculptor Herman de Vries, the Australian sculptor John Davis and the British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy similarly leave the landscape they have worked with unharmed; in some cases they have revegetated damaged land with appropriate indigenous flora in the process of making their work. In this way the work of art arises out of sensitivity towards habitat.

Perhaps the most celebrated instance of environmental art in the late 20th century was 7000 Oaks, an ecological action organized by Joseph Beuys. It was first presented In documenta 7 in 1982. Beuys proposed a plan to plant 7000 oaks throughout the city of Kassel, each paired with a basalt stone. The 7000 stones were piled up on the lawn in front of the Museum Fridericianum with the idea that the pile would shrink every time a tree was planted.

In response to the extensive urbanization of the setting the work was a long-term and large-scale artistic and ecological intervention with the goal of enduringly altering the living space of the city. The project, though at first controversial, has become an important part of Kassel’s cityscape. Beuys’ 7000 Oaks work is an example of the thread that links the Situationist International’s approach to art and its re-creation by new groups continues to evolve through a new generation of socially conscious organizations that merge art, education, and environmental issues in their work.




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