Syrians always used art as a tool of resistance against death, celebrating life and hope, using either unconventional themes or traditional ones. Since the revolution started Syrians tried to turn the ugliness and pain of war and destruction into art as a powerful tool for the manifestation of life. It is the art of survival.
In this article, I am writing here about one beautiful face of Syria.
When the revolution started, a group of Syrian actors activists formed a company called Massasset Matteh (Mate Straw). They brought back into life a traditional art of storytelling by using puppets. The idea is developed from the historical shadow puppetry in Syrian that is well known by Karakoz & Iwaz, which are the two main characters (puppets) in the show that usually dealt with social and political situations. In the past it was performed in cafes and streets. The modern Syrian puppetry show revived by these activists who set and shot their shows in secret location then uploaded their shows online. The online shows, like its old ancestors, talked about the political situation and the ruling junta. Sadly, the shows stopped. One of my favorite episodes is called: The Last Chapter in Hell, when the actor tells the crazy dictator: In the name of Tomorrow: Go.
“The revolution created a space for creativity that astonished us as Syrians, and made us ask ourselves: Where all these talents were hidden?” Wrote the patrons of the website The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution, about their vision behind starting their initiative. For this, they decided to start a website for collecting and documenting all creative works by Syrians that are scattered all around the cyberspace and display them in one place, whether these works were: Photography, graffiti, caricature, Arabic calligraphy, comics, stamps, music, pamphlets and any form of creative work. The project is an act of resistance, and according to the creators this is an attempt to participate in writing the modern history of Syria.
A group of graphic designers and animators gathered to create comics and publish them in a special Facebook page created for this purpose. In the Arab World comics are usually target children, but the artists in this project took incidents in the daily life of the revolution and turned them into visual anecdote that suites all ages. In one of the group’s contributions, 1000 copies of short comic magazine was distributed in Za’tari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Dawlaty (My State) is an organization designed to teach and spread civil and political education by using different methods including art. The main subjects taught by Dawlaty are human and women rights, citizenship, transparency and accountability, transitional justice and dominance of law. One of the most important methods used by Dawlaty for education is caricature. The organization encourage artists and activists to send their works and ideas to be published.
An independent film production company from Syria that gathered a group of documentary film makers. This company mainly specialized in producing short films about certain ideas and concepts in the current lives of Syrians. Abounaddara is a nickname for a man wearing eyeglasses. Personally, I like an interview with a well-known Syrian woman activist called Marcell Shehwaro talking about her refusal to waste her energy in hating those who are killing other Syrians.
Kafrnabel is a small town located in Idlib Governorate in Northwest Syria. Since the revolution started, this town which was rarely heard of by Syrians shined worldwide with its creative talents in making eloquent signs and witty drawings to send their messages to the world. The creators of the signs take all ideas and suggestions from their local community, and the artists and calligraphers working on this activity say that the source of inspiration is the revolutionary meetings of the people as their rural lives facilitate the exchange of ideas during their night gatherings with the people. One of the artists called Ahmed Jalel stated that one of the messages they wanted to deliver to the world is that Syrians knows exactly what they want “and we have the right of freedom and dignity like other nations around the world.”*
Mukhayyam al-Yarmouk (Yarmouk camp) for Palestinian refugees is a district in Damascus was established in 1957 to host Palestinians that were displaced from their homes. Through time, the camp also hosted Syrian families. Like other areas in Syria, Mukhayyam al-Yarmouk has its share of the ongoing crisis. In September 2013 the camp became under a savage embargo by regime forces preventing any food or aid into the camp leading to many deaths caused by starvation. In the camp a group of youths decided to play music and sing in the face of hunger and cheer up the starved civilians. So they formed a group called Shabab Al Yarmouk (The Youths of Yarmouk). Their piano’s stage is the streets of their beloved camp and they write and compose their songs.
Street Art and the Culture of Resistance
This burst of creative works in Syria did not just included professional artists, actors and graphic designers, but it also included many ordinary people chose to express themselves and their vision in some form of art. One man from besieged Duma took the leftovers of death tools like bullet shells and missiles, and recycled them into objects that can be used in people’s lives.
It is called the Art of Survival.
Finally, here is one of the artworks of the Syrian painter Wissam Al Jazairy, a well-known artist and painter for his contributions in the Syrian revolution and one of my favorite artists.
In this work he present how he sees the destruction of historic Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo.
* Enab Baladi Newspaper: http://enab-baladi.com/archives/2652