Ahead of opening the major exhibition Yemen: Inside a Crisis at IWM North on 17 May 2019, Imperial War Museums (IWM) announces its commission of a new artwork by Yemeni street artist Murad Subay. Created especially for IWM, the artist’s latest work, Devoured (2019), will form part of the UK’s first exhibition to address Yemen’s current conflict and humanitarian crisis.
In this commission, Murad Subay responds to the on-going humanitarian crisis in his country, which the UN has described as the “world’s worst”. With the conflict leaving an estimated 80% of the country’s men, women and children in desperate need of assistance, Subay’s artwork explores the realities of living in a war zone.
Examining the inaccessibility of food, water and healthcare, Devoured metaphorically represents the harsh physical and psychological realities faced daily by the Yemeni people, as well as the regional and international experience of the conflict situation. Created using stencils, the artwork depicts a skeletal man, sat cross- legged, devouring what remains of himself. A crow bird perches on the knee of the figure, also devouring the body. The colours used are grey and muted, emphasising a horizontal red line that runs behind the seated figure.
Commenting on Devoured, artist Murad Subay said: “Ordinary people are struggling for survival and are crushed down to the ground. People suffer from hunger and famine, illness and epidemics due to lack of food, water and medicine. They lost everything they had because of war. There is only a red line – a dangerous limit that should never be crossed – which has been surpassed already, exemplifying the lack of hope and uncertain future.”
Louise Skidmore, Head of Contemporary Conflict at IWM and curator of Yemen: Inside a Crisis said: “Responding to themes explored as part of Yemen: Inside a Crisis, Murad Subay’s Devoured is raw and honest. His is a powerful representation of the human suffering in Yemen and it visually reflects how weary the country’s people are after years of living through the on-going crisis. IWM is extremely proud to have commissioned this important work, which provides a unique perspective on the artist’s experience of conflict.”
Yemen: Inside a Crisis is part of IWM’s Conflict Now strand of programming, which features opinions of individuals who have witnessed, experienced and worked in areas of conflict. In addition to Murad Subay’s new commission, the exhibition at IWM North will feature around 50 objects and photographs, many of which have been exclusively sourced from Yemen for this exhibition.