With the Yemeni conflict showing no signs of easing, RT spoke to a graffiti artist who’s been capturing the horrors and hardships with his brush and paint. He believes that, even amidst unrelenting war, art can bring people together.
“Yemen was dragged into a catastrophic war, and ordinary civilians are paying a high cost for it, and they will be paying it for decades,”Murad Subay, whose work recently started catching the attention of mainstream media, told RT. Subay, who not only creates graffiti himself, but also organizes mass workshops, says he is using his artwork to draw attention to the dire conditions in Yemen.
“There’s no responsibility, no sympathy with the difficulties Yemeni people are facing there.”
“It’s a catastrophic war, and no one is taking responsibility for it. We hope that the voice of reason will be heard, and the war will be stopped, so that we can overcome the consequences of this catastrophe,” he says.
READ MORE: UN ‘estimates’ death toll in Yemen war surpassed 10,000
Subay, who is already an award-winning artist, seems genuinely uninterested in pursuing glory and fame for the sake of it. He daubs the walls of ruined Yemeni houses with haunting images of war and starving children, and tents for the displaced with pictures of barbed wire or dream-homes, traveling across Yemen despite the dangers – all of it “for the sake of peace.”
His graffiti metaphorically depicts the ugliness of war, like a malnourished child locked in a blood-red coffin or a small girl about to pick up a flower sticking from a landmine that’s about to explode.
However, instead of speaking about his own art, he told RT of the effort he’s been making along other Yemeni artists to promote art and unite Yemeni people under its aegis. Subay and others have been gathering in the capital, Sanaa, every year since the conflict began, painting illustrations of war on what was left of the city’s streets after bombings. And they have been joined by ordinary people of all ages, who wanted to paint their war, too.
“Art is not confined to the boundaries of one social class, not only artists create it. In modern conditions art can be practiced by everyone – children, youths and adults. Every [year] we invite people, they go out to the streets and make their artwork, each in their own colors. There is no social order, all is done voluntarily and without fanaticism.”
“[…] This is the art of the Yemeni streets. That’s what we do,” he says, describing the initiative launched in an effort to highlight the impact the Yemeni conflict is having on the population. He points out that the initiative has now become a tradition, calling it a “Yemeni phenomenon.”
“This Yemeni phenomenon is recognized worldwide. Articles are published about it, scientific universities are studying it as a social phenomenon – that of bringing people together in drawing,” Subay tells RT. The media has been so enthralled by his activities lately, he even got a nickname: the Banksy of Yemen, or Arab Banksy.
The original Banksy is the brush name of an anonymous British artist who’s also gained fame with his murals and paintings on sharp social and political issues. Among his best -known recent artworks are murals set among ruins of the Gaza war and ‘Steve Jobs the son of Syrian migrant’ picture in the Calais refugee camp.
READ MORE: Child malnutrition at ‘all-time high’ in Yemen, UNICEF claims in alarming report
Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in support of exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi at the end of March 2015, after Houthi rebels loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, backed by Iran, took over Sanaa. According to the latest UN data, the death toll in the Yemeni conflict has now surpassed 10,000 people, and almost 40,000 more have been wounded. Some 14 million civilians are in need of food aid and some 462,000 children are suffering acute malnutrition.