‘Street Art by Murad Subay’: Turning Ruins of War into Walls of Revolution – Murad Subay in Discussion with Wes Williams
About this event
Nicknamed ‘the Yemini Bansky’ by the international media, Murad Subay (born in 1987 in Yemen) is a contemporary artist and political activist. Since the Yemeni revolution of 2011, Murad has launched several campaigns of turning the bullet-scarred walls and war-ravaged streets into symbols of hope and peace through his art. Vibrant hues of revolution and civil disobedience against the crumbling canvasses of war mark his signature artistic expression. In this session, Murad Subay will introduce his unique style of resistance in conversation with Wes Williams (Director, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities).
Murad Subay has garnered several accolades for his revolutionary work across the world. He received the Freedom of Expression Arts Award (2016) by Index on Censorship Organization, UK awarded to artists ‘whose work challenges repression and injustice and celebrates artistic free expression’, the Art for Peace Award (2014) by Veronesi Foundation, Italy for ‘spreading a culture of peace’ and Artist Protection Fund Award (2020), USA among others. He has his works exhibited at the Imperial War Museum, Manchester, the Berliner Union Film Ateliers (BUFA) in Berlin and at Yemini Film & Arts Festivals in New York and Washington DC among other locations. ‘His work has recently been acquired by the British Museum, London. Murad is currently residing in France as a political refugee where he continues his activism.
This online event is part of the interdisciplinary graduate conference ‘Rethinking Resistance’ at the University of Oxford.
The Cultural Frontline: Murad Subay: The Walls Remember
Sunday 25 August and Thursday 29 August
BBC WORLD SERVICE
When war broke out in Yemen, Murad Subay began painting murals on the shelled and bullet-marked buildings of his home city of Sana’a.
His colourful messages of protest and hope raised awareness of the conflict’s impact on Yemeni civilians. He encouraged passers by to join him as he worked, and together they filled ruined homes with images of peace.
Journalist Sumaya Bakhsh traces Murad’s journey as he leaves Sana’a for Cairo. International travel is rarely simple for citizens of Yemen, and we hear from Murad as he languishes in Egypt, stuck without a visa and unable to create new work. Murad is used to living and working in the toughest of conditions, but this period of inactivity is a new test for the prolific artist.
Eventually Murad receives a visa and arrives in the UK to launch a new campaign. Painting with Murad on the streets of London, Sumaya digs into his process as Murad explains why ultimately he must return to the conflict in Yemen, armed only with his brushes and spray cans.
A SPG Production for the BBC World Service, produced by Robbie MacInnes
FREQUENT VISITORS to the skatepark on London’s South Bank may have noticed two new works of art among the decades-old graffiti. Both spray-painted in black and white, one image depicts a naked and emaciated mother clutching a newborn; another shows a starving boy, his hair on end, listlessly picking at his hands. Entitled “Hollowed Mother” and “Lost Generation” (pictured), the figures are cadaverous and haunting, with dark empty holes where their eyes should be.
Similar works of street art can be found in Hodeida and Sana’a, cities in Yemen: on the wreck of a door, now in a garbage dump, or on the last standing wall of a house reduced to rubble. “Faces of War”, a project by Murad Subay, a Yemeni artist, seeks to draw attention to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Since the outbreak of civil war in 2014 between Houthi rebels, a Shia militia backed by Iran, and government forces, backed by Saudi Arabia, the water, power, health-care and education systems have failed. The country has suffered the worst cholera outbreak in modern history and faces famine. The United Nations estimates that three-quarters of the population of 28m need some sort of assistance.
Mr Subay’s works convey this desperation. “Devoured”, (pictured below) an installation commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, depicts a skeletal, one-armed man with the same cavernous eyes as the mother and boy in South Bank. He sits, cross-legged, biting into himself; a crow perched on one knee pecks at his gaunt thigh. The image calls forth “The vulture and the little girl”, a Pulitzer prizewinning photograph taken by Kevin Carter in 1993, of a starving Sudanese child (actually a boy) and a vulture stalking close by. (The memory haunted Carter, who took his own life the next year.)
جيل بأكمله تم تضييعه منذ بداية إجتياح المدن عام 2014 وحتى الحرب الحالية التي بدأت عام 2015، لقد تم هدر أحلام الشباب والشابات والشعب اليمني الذي تطلع في يوما ما منذ سنوات للحاق بالعالم، ليعيش كباقي الشعوب في حرية وعدل.
جداريتي “الجيل الضائع”, ضمن مجموعة “وجوه الحرب”, على جدار في العاصمة البريطانية “لندن”, 5 يوليو 2019.
شكر خاص للرائع “روب ماكينس” لكل جهوده بذلها في توفير المكان اللازم لي لعمل الجداريات وللصديقة “سميه بخش”
An entire generation has been lost from the beginning of the invasion of the cities in 2014 until the ongoing war that started in 2015. The dreams of the young people and the Yemenis (it is the same for the people in the region), who someday dreamt to live like the rest of the world in freedom and justice.
“The Lost Generation”, part “The Faces of War” street art collection, on a wall in London, July 5, 2019
A special thanks to the wonderful “Robbie Macinnes” who helped me with finding a place to do my murals and to my friend “Sumaya Baksh”.