Painting the Bridge of the President in Damascus

Updated on December 6, 2019
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"Each painting or art has a suitable place, if the painting is beautiful and misplaced, it will inevitably receive negative reactions".
"Each painting or art has a suitable place, if the painting is beautiful and misplaced, it will inevitably receive negative reactions".

The project of painting and repainting the Bridge of the President area in the Syrian capital, Damascus, sparked a wide debate some time ago, between those who welcomed the project on the one hand and those who considered it a distortion of Syrian heritage and art on the other.

This controversy is not the first of its kind, as it has been preceded by many similar cases. There are questions to be asked about the qualifications of those who carry out these drawings, as well as the qualifications of those who allow or prevent them. In particular, this phenomenon is growing with the involvement of several associations and initiatives to work in them, producing beautiful paintings in some locations and scribbles in others.

The Sheikh Dahir Bridge in Latakia

Samer and his wife watch the Sheikh Dahir Bridge as they wait for a taxi to pick them up in front of the Cultural Center in Latakia, while the street is packed with cars and pedestrians. Samer paints the colors and shapes painted on the wall, and says, "I don't know, she may be beautiful, but she makes me feel alienated." The young man, who works in the field of electricity, considers himself "far from art", and says in response to the question "I can not judge these drawings, I do not feel comfortable looking at them although their colors are joy," before his wife interrupted him laughing: "I feel that these drawings are Indian or African, maybe he wanted to draw them that Africa brings us."

On the same pavement, a young woman stands with a book collection in her hands. "When this project was completed last year, the colours were more vibrant," says Reem, a newly graduated engineer from the university. I have lost a lot of its luster, probably because of the weather." Reem describes what she sees on the bridge wall as "bohemian art, perhaps," before adding, "These colors could have been used to create more beautiful and closer paintings."

The project of coloring the bridge was carried out by the "Sheikh Dahir Community Lighthouse" of the Syrian Secretariat for Development, with the aim of "beautifying" one of the most vibrant streets in Latakia, according to the project's organizers, which sparked controversy at the time.

Sinada and Klimt's Kiss

In the Sinada region of Latakia, paintings by international artists such as Henri Matisse, Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt, and others are scattered over a number of walls and drawers. The paintings, which were drawn in a series of initiatives by the "Draw My Dream" association, did not have much resonance in general, perhaps because they were painted in a suburb far from the city center.

"The most important factor that needs to be taken before any graffiti is done is the same place," says artist Hayam Salman, one of the founders of The Drawing Helmy. "Every painting or art has a suitable place, if the painting is beautiful, integrated and misplaced, it will inevitably receive negative reactions."

Salman explains: "We carried the qibla painting of Klimt on one of the drawers in Sinada, and we did not receive any negative reactions, although the painting is somewhat bold... the main goal is to change some concepts, and the societal view of art on the one hand, and to the place where the paintings are executed on the other, In particular, some areas suffer from neglect, accumulation of dirt, etc." She stresses that these projects "are not as complementary as some believe".

The Association "Paint My Dream", which includes artists and volunteers from the excellence of the faculties of fine arts and architecture and others, is one of the first art societies in Latakia that has been interested in painting on walls and drawers, and the association is implementing a number of projects related to children and murals since its founding in 2011 and even now, you're going to have other wall painting associations are also active in Latakia, including "colored drops", the Syrian Secretariat for Development projects, and others.

The Crisis of the President's Bridge

Overnight, social media sites were flooded with images of drawings being carried out in the Jisr al-President area of Damascus, amid sharp criticism from project sponsors regarding the choice of colors and the nature of the drawings that critics considered "not belonging to the Syrian artistic heritage."

The artist Muwaffaq Makhoul, who is in charge of the Rhythm of Life association that is implementing the project, believes that it "does not tolerate many complications", asking at the same time about "the meaning of the Syrian artistic heritage in the area of the modern gray bitunya. It's just that we're carrying out beauty paintings aimed at reviving a neglected area full of pedestrians and accumulating dirt. The main goal of the project is to revive this area, and to add joy to it, the subject cannot bear even greater dimensions, especially since we also painted on garbage containers, can we not indobody the Syrian heritage on garbage containers?! ... We don't work in a museum, heritage has its own places, and modernity has other places."

Rebellion Against War

Syrian artist Sawsan Maala believes that the phenomenon of graffiti and its recent growth is a "rebellion and reaction to the war and the effects it has left in us". They continues: "Maybe what is going on is an attempt to overcome the depression of war by adding colors, drawings and paintings in our streets, as a way to respond to the spiritual physical gray."

"The stark colors on the murals are all over the world, and the aim is to draw attention to break the monotony created by the Beatonian masses, a kind of modern art," Maala said. "We should not be trapped within the scope of Islamic decoration, inscriptions and Arabic calligraphy, despite its aesthetics, which does not prevent change and access to all segments of society. Because art as a whole is a sophisticated cumulative process, and includes many schools."

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    © 2019 Hafiz Muhamamd Adnan

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