So how did you come up with such a long title to your work?
Yes, it is a bit wild and long. Daraa was the epicenter in the Arab Spring uprising when it came to Syria. People first started to protest and march to demand reforms. After no reforms were offered, the people started demanding President Assad step down from power. Assad decided to terrorize the people to get the people back in line of fear. Many could speculate that Obama’s rise to power in the US showed the world that a new face could come to power outside a traditional power base in the US. Additionally, much of the population was suffering under ill thought of central socialist planning and was united via social media. We could perhaps say this was the first revolution coming out of the power of social media.
Why did you get interested in the Arab Spring?
Well, I happen to know a few people in the region from my Master’s program and was concerned over the welfare of the people. By now, over 40,000 civilians have died in Syria simply because the leader refuses to step down gracefully. He is following his father’s footprints of a scorched Earth policy in the 1980s with the last civilian uprising.
So what are the elements in your painting?
I have multiple layers to the painting. I looked back on the long history of Syria for inspiration. The Assyrians were the first invaders of Egypt during the Pharaohs, so the history is very long and has multiple rulers over these flat lands with no natural defense like say Switzerland with its mountains. There were multiple kingdoms: Egypt, Assyrian, Islamic, Roman, Persian, Macedonian and Ottoman just to name a few. Hence, I added symbols of the major kingdoms: Roman coins under Caesar, Persian stamp of Cersus, Umayyid coins, Ottoman flags and Russian flags. There are also other currencies and flags of recent major powers backing either side: France, Russia, US, UK, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Besides multiple symbols I have taken recent news articles on the Syrian Civil War in major power languages: Arabic, Persian, English, French, Chinese, Russian and Hebrew. Syria has always been a pawn of the major powers with its recent boundaries drawn by France in 1920 after breaking up the Ottoman Empire.
So what is the fist about?
Interesting enough the fist originally comes from the Black Panthers as well as the symbol of communists worldwide; the hand extended out is from the fascists under Mussolini and Hitler. The fist was adapted by the Free Syrian Army. I left out the other radical Islamic symbols of al-Queda and others although they would have been relevant as well.
So why is the painting in Christmas colors? Isn’t that a bit gruesome irony?
Actually, the green and red colors are the colors of the current and 1932 flag. Black is another color in both flags, which I originally was going to use as drips from the text of the poem. The poem is in gold, which represents the stars in both flags. So is this a battle cry poem of war or of ancient times? Originally, I had wanted to use an Assyrian war poem as that would really pull together the very long and intertwined Syrian history. I found text, but had no translation available on-site, so decided to try more modern prose, since that was easily translateable or so I thought. My research uncovered a famous Syrian poet living in exile that had written poetry over 20 years and revolutionized all Arabic poetry with modern prose and style. As this was revolution, I thought revolutionary prose is and was appropiate.
So what is in the poem?
This poem is actually a small piece of an epic poem of Adonis called “This is my name”. The poem was written only 2 years after the bitter defeat of the Arab allies trying to take Israel in 1967. The poem has the sense of the meaningless of war and hopelessness without focusing on Israel (in this section). I felt it was appropiate as it has the focus on a lost child, which is poignant considering many children have been killed needless by the regime in the war.
Can you give a translation of the poem?
And I shall call this city a cadaver
And I shall call Syria’s trees mournful birds
A flower or a song perhaps
Will be born of the naming
And I shall call the desert moon a palm tree
Perhaps the earth shall awaken and become
A child again or the dream of a child
There is nothing left to sing my melodies:
The dissenters shall come and
The light shall come at its appointed hour…
Only madness remains