Yemen: Color Me a Wall

Photo Blog and Text by Atiaf Alwazir

In March the Yemeni artist Murad Subai began a creative initiative named “color the walls of your street,” to promote the rehabilitation of areas that underwent conflict through art.

“Our walls in Yemen are decorated with bullets and destruction,” said the 25-year old artist. “I wanted them to emanate with life instead.”

On March 15 Murad created a Facebook group where he invited others to join him in coloring the walls in areas that were damaged. He spent one week painting alone, and then on March 22nd, others joined him and continue to join him every Thursday morning.

The goal of this initiative is “to make art the common denominator between all people, and to give them hope for the future,” he said while painting. Anyone is welcome to join in and there are no rules for what you can draw. The plan has transformed casual visitors into active participants, becoming part of the artwork.

Some paintings spread social messages such as tolerance, women’s rights, and the plight of marginalized communities. Others paint to instill hope, while some just aim to express inner emotions. “These people have made us proud and have raised our head high, who knew we had so much talent?” said a passerby.

Yemenis on the whole have been incredibly supportive. “We all thought that there would be more negative reaction from people but it was the opposite, I did not imagine that this idea would get this much support from all kinds of people, civilians, armed men, women, children,” said Sahar Abdullah, a 25-year-old activist. “When I pass by these walls I get a feeling of utter happiness for two reasons: because it looks beautiful, and second because I was part of it,” she added.

When the artists leave the area, the wall is no longer silent. It has changed from a wall of despair, to a wall that speak of life, courage, and hope. It is a wall that speaks the language of the community and hence serves the purposes of community building and artistic expression.

“A nation that accepts all colors.” (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

“Yemen: my heart will continuously beat to the tune of Yemen” lyrics from the national anthem. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

(Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

Traffic slows down in the streets adjacent to the event, as cars and motorcycles stop to inquire about the activity, enjoy the painting and sometimes join. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

(Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

Yemeni soldiers also joined the activity and participated in the paining on the walls. “We must thank the people who began this initiative, it is a great sight that is a reflection of the soul of the people painting” said Mohammed Dahabbah, a soldier from the First Armored Division, who has participated twice in the activity. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

Diversity: woman, man, soldier and child coloring for a new Yemen. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

School child in uniform watching artists in action. [Stop sign filled with posters of martyrs]. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

(Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

Basic art supplies create remarkable results. Each artist brings his/her own supplies. Artists often share their supplies with viewers who would like to participate. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

(Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

Painting of a child sleeping on the pavement, symbolizing the plight of the marginalized community and street children by Haifa Subai’. (Photo: Atiaf Alwazir)

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