The hopes of Syria's protests shine through in new Hackney art exhibition

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

A father tries to shield his daughter from blood splattering on them from every corner. Necks snap, heads are severed and women give birth to guns and knives instead of children. Yet even amongst the violence, children play, women pray and men sing songs of hope.

Each of the pieces at a new exhibition of Syrian protest artwork - Culture in defiance, continuing the tradition of satire, art and the struggle in Syria, opening on Thursday at the RichMix cultural centre in Hackney, north London, as part of the Shubbak Arab festival - is a window into turmoil.

Music, dance, puppet shows and other forms of artistic expression form major coping mechanisms for Syria, as the country braves the second year of a war that started out in March 2011 as peaceful protests against the government of Bashar Al-Asad.  The uprisings metamorphosed into rebellion and then a full-blown civil war. To date, an estimated 92,000 people have died as a result.

For the organisers of the exhibition, it is a chance for the outside world to see the war through the eyes of artists who are “experiencing it and thinking about it” and to know that there is still “a revolution within the war.”

Nawara Mahfoud, one of the co-curators, admits that there are no guaranteed answers and it will take more than an exhibition to solve Syria's problems. Still, she says, the art work is prove that there is some real internal dialogue about how to get the country back on course going on in the country.

Speaking to her and co-curators, Aram Taham and Malu Halasa, the theme of hope and dreams of a better Syria is recurrent. Halasa says a lot of the people who come into the exhibition leave the place sobbing but that:

“It is important to look inside, however painful.”

From graffiti and paintings to words of tragic poetry, shared clandestinely over the internet, the works stretch out and draw you into a disturbing embrace, whispering the story of a people determined to have their voices heard - no matter the cost.

Images like those of Khalil Younes - black and red, themed on death and blood, and depicting burning buildings and lines of mourning grave yards - are likely to get anyone who sees them out of their comfort zone. You cannot help but feel the surge of pain in Younes' painting of a woman's breasts sewn up with barbed wire. Nor can you ignore the loud voices behind the anonymous paintings of forlorn faces of people that died for the revolution.

“I am taking to the streets. I will not obey a government that has lost its authority,” reads one piece by Damascus university students. The mixture of rainbow colours speaks of youth and resilience, contrasting sharply with the black and red pictures of death and calamity on the wall adjacent to it- and eases you into the graffiti that lines the exit where you meet Sulafa Hijazi's shocking and graphical portrayals of the Syrian war.

The dream is that one day human rights and democracy will triumph over the brutality and impunity. That those responsible will be brought to book and women will once again birth babies instead of guns. Then, the art will represent a time past when the nation was only a little crazy. In the words of one artist: “We should make something that not only reflects a revolution right at this moment, but make something that will be remembered two generations from now.”

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own