Galleries as Refuge in Revolutionary Syria

Galleries Refuge

Ali Kaaf, Artist from Al Azmeh’s photo series “A small group of Syrians”

HUFFPOST ARTS & CULTURE: In Revolutionary Syria, Galleries Become Refuges and Artists Dissidents 

Not so long ago it looked like Damascus was in line to once again become a global center for art, with a burgeoning gallery scene and a growing international interest in works by Syrian artists. But glossy images from openings just a few years ago stand in stark contrast to the bloody bodies and bombed-out buildings in the headlines of 2013. World heritage sites throughout Syria are being destroyed as refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey are swelling with Syrians escaping the violence. Yet, Syrian artists are continuing to make work, building new homes abroad, and bringing their art with them. Perhaps their perseverance is a sign that Syrian art will continue to flourish, despite a revolution that has already claimed 60,000 lives.

Many artists have made political works they never would have risked under the regime. Jaber Al Azmeh, a Syrian photographer and professor now living in Doha, created two series of photographs documenting the revolution. Fearing the regime, he only published a few of the images before leaving Syria. One series, “A Small Group of Syrians” consists of images of artists and activists holding up the Ba’ath newspaper (the newspaper of the regime), with anti-Assad messages written over the print. He explained:

“I hated politics in my life, I think it’s a really corrupt part of humanity and I never went into it too much. But, being a part of the revolution wasn’t about being political. It’s our life now, it’s a matter of survival, it’s our country, our people and everyone was participating.”

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