The Art of War: Using Art to Promote Peace in Yemen\ On “Inside Arabia”

The Art of War: Using Art to Promote Peace in Yemen

As combative as it is dangerous, painter Murad Subay weaponizes his art to quell tensions in the ever-escalating war in Yemen.

Photo courtesy: Murad Subay

As combative as it is dangerous, painter Murad Subay weaponizes his art to quell tensions in the ever-escalating war in Yemen.

In Yemen, the post-Arab Spring transition that started in 2012 has been accompanied by political failure and violence. Artists have taken to the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and numerous other Yemeni provinces in an effort to disseminate messages of peace through outdoor exhibitions of their works.


Yemeni artist Murad Subay’s artwork combats attempts to undermine the freedom of the Yemeni people, eliminate their civilization, and threaten their political and human rights. Since 2012, Subay has launched numerous political art campaigns, including  “Color the Wall of Your Street,” a protest of the ongoing civil war. Subay recounted how he was inspired to paint bullet holes as an “indirect call for peace.” These vibrant bursts of color serve as messages of hope, life, and tolerance.

Similarly, Subay worked on the “The Walls Remember Their Faces” campaign, to remember the victims of enforced disappearance. The memorial, which was on display from September 8, 2012, to April 4, 2013, featured 102 photos of the victims, along with their names, the date of disappearance, and the last place that they were seen written in both Arabic and English.

Of his activism, Subay has said that participating in the 2011 revolution against Saleh encouraged him to become more politically aware and “to do something against political crime.”

In a recorded interview, Subay discussed twelve major political challenges facing Yemen: “sectarianism, employment, poverty, kidnapping, destruction, civil wars, terrorism, corruption, child recruitment, arms proliferation, and the American drones strikes in Yemen.” His “12-hour” campaign ran from July 4, 2013, to June 24, 2014, and featured 38 murals depicting these topics dispersed throughout Sanaa. Interestingly, the exhibition coincided with the National Dialogue Conference, from March 18, 2013, to January 24, 2014. While there was no comment from conference attendees, the Yemeni people have responded positively. Subay believes that the public’s response to the campaigns “is a sign of people’s longing for peace and life.”

On March 26, 2015, the first day of the Saudi-Emirati coalition’s military intervention in Yemen, the coalition targeted a residential neighborhood in Bani Hawat, destroying 14 houses, killing 25 civilians, including 6 children, and injuring 40 others, according to Amnesty International. This was the first attack targeting the capital Sanaa.

The site of this crime was the starting point for Subay’s third campaign, entitled “Ruins,” which began on May 18, 2015. The campaign focused on the areas destroyed by the warring parties by “drawing on walls of residential neighborhoods, houses, schools, tents of displaced people, living rooms, [and] drawing in cities and rural areas,” he explained.

Subay humanizes the victims of the war through his murals. In “Family,” he documented a war crime on the remnants of a bedroom wall at the site where a whole family was killed; the father and one of his children were the only survivors. On July 12, 2015, a coalition aircraft targeted a marginalized neighborhood in Sanaa, killing 23 civilians from one family, including women and 14 children under the age of 16, Human Rights Watch reported.

Subay offers “life testimonies in a country long ravaged by civil wars.” Although he has faced dangerous situations such as being arrested by the Houthis during his campaigns, he commented: “I was ignoring this in order to continue because reporting these violations may further strengthen the restrictions imposed by the conflicting parties, but what I hope for is the continuation of work and [art] campaigns.”

War has exacerbated the tragedy of Hodeidah, a city engulfed in the hardships of war, hunger, and disease. Here, Subay launched a campaign entitled “The Faces of War” on November 21, 2017. He said, “[T]he aim of this campaign is to draw the local and international communities’ attention  to this stricken city, where war has multiplied the suffering of its forgotten population.”

Subay has a strong belief that “the continuation of art and painting in Yemen is evidence of the people’s attachment to life, as well as an important outlet for freedoms, including freedom of opinion and expression.” He added, “The artworks carried out in Yemen during this stage included clear criticism of the political process of all parties and warnings from young people who are not affiliated with any party or political or ideological group.”

The  Umberto Veronesi Foundation awarded Subay the Art for Peace Award during the Sixth International Peace Conference in Milan on November 14, 2014.

Many artists, such as Thou Yazan Al Alawi, Saba Jallas, and Haifa Subay (Murad’s sister) have responded to Subay’s calls to action.

Haifa Subay worked on two separate campaigns. The first one on August 17, 2017, entitled “#Silent_Victims”, focused mainly on women and children as a strong representation of civilians. The second one, a call for peace, entitled “#Dove_Campaign,” began on August 9, 2018. Both campaigns are ongoing.

In the “Silent Victims” murals, Haifa wanted to share Yemen’s tragedies with the world. “I loved to show the world something that we miss and demand,” she said, referring to the suffering civilians as “silent victims of the war,” without means of expression, or political or religious power.

In her new campaign, “The Peace Dove,” Haifa endeavored to be simpler, clearer and more direct in her call for peace. “Participation in the campaign does not require drawing on the street, but using the hashtag, taking a picture with the drawing, and publishing it on social media.” It is also straightforward and easy to understand, taking into account the educational level of all social classes. The social media campaign is “not restricted by political orientation; its goal is purely humanitarian,” Haifa confirmed to Inside Arabia.

Haifa will launch another peaceful social media campaign as a continuation of The Peace Dove on September 20, 2018. It was originally supposed to be launched on the International Day of Peace on September 21, but that day “marks the Houthis’ entry to Sanaa and the crimes they committed there — that’s why it was moved ahead by one day,” said Haifa.

When Jallas, an artist living in Saudi Arabia at the time a coalition airstrike targeted Razzaq al-Sannani School, saw pictures of the aftermath, she found that they reminded her of the “scenes of Israeli shelling and destruction on the Gaza Strip.” She told Inside Arabia that the scenes of devastation that were broadcast throughout the country affected her so profoundly that she lost her zeal for life and felt frustrated and desperate for change.

Jallas started drawing as a form of therapy, and one of her most well-known works depicts a mother holding her child and wearing the Yemeni flag as a scarf. The mother is smiling to the world while the flag burns.

She worked on 40 images in the “Smoke” group over the span of three years. In 2017, she returned to Yemen and became involved with humanitarian work. Today, she sells her artwork and uses the proceeds to support the most impoverished populations in Yemen. “My goal is to restore hope and promote tolerance and love because [the poor]  were targeted by the war, and people are very desperate,” she said.

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Children of Rubble’s Mural

“أطفال الركام”

خلال سنوات الحرب كان الأمر الجلي والوحيد، هو ان المتحاربين على رؤوسنا لا يقيموا أي وزن لحياة الأبرياء، وفي مقدمتهم الأطفال. تبتلع الحرب وأطرافها روح هذا الشعب واحلامه ولا يشعر بهذه الحرب إلا الأبرياء.
جداريتي على بقايا إحدى المنازل في شارع 16، صنعاء, ضمن مجموعة “وجوه الحرب (فو)”، 14 مايو 2018.


“Children of Rubble”

Amidst the chaos of war, one thing is as clear as the sun: all sides of war don’t care about the lives of innocents, especially children. War and its allies are swallowing the spirits and dreams of people .. and war continues to be felt only by the innocents.
My mural on the rubble of a house at 16th Street, Sana’a, as part of “Faces of War (FOW)” collection, May 14, 2018.

Child of Rubble 1


“Tihama” My third mural in Hudaydah city.


عندما وصلت الحديدة, مررت بهذا المكان في الصورة, كانت هناك امرأتان تطبخان على قدر فوق كومة من الأحجار والحطب. كان حولهن أطفالهن وخلفهن هيكل يشبه الكوخ مرفوع بأعمدة خشبية وفوقه منشورة خرق من الملابس البالية. ما زالت في ذاكرتي ابتسامتهن على الرغم من قساوة حياتهن. رجعت ثاني يوم إلى نفس المكان لأطبق هذه الجدارية على جدار مطبخهن الذي على الرصيف, والتي اسميتها ب “تهامة”.
جداريتي الثالثة والتي طبقتها على الجدار في مدينة الحديدة، 25 نوفمبر 2017, ضمن مجموعتي الفنية “وجوه الحرب”.

تصوير: نجيب سبيع

When I arrived at Hudaydah, I passed by this exact place shown in the image. There were two women cooking on a pile of stones and wood. They were surrounded by their children and behind them a cottage-like structure raised with wooden pillars and above it were worn-out clothes. I still remember their smile despite their harsh lives. I returned the next day to the same place to put this mural on the wall of their “kitchen” on the pavement, and named the mural “Tihama”.
I installed the mural in Hudaydah, November 25, 2017. It’s part of the new art collection Faces of War (FOW).

Photo by: Najeeb Subay

Gatukonst sprider budskap om fred i Jemen\ By: Sofia Eriksson, on “halland nyheter”

El còlera s’acarnissa amb el Iemen\ On “Internacional”


El còlera s’acarnissa amb el Iemen

L’epidèmia, que des de fa mesos afecta unes 300.000 persones, col·lapsa els serveis públics

RICARD G. SAMARANCH Tunis Actualitzada el 17/07/2017 00:00

 Polònia aprova la reforma del Tribunal Suprem tot i les advertències de la UE Els malalts de còlera omplen els passadissos d’aquest hospital de Sanà. / YAHYA ARHAB / EFEEls malalts de còlera omplen els passadissos d’aquest hospital de Sanà. /YAHYA ARHAB / EFE 

“Cholera”, my mural in “Ruins” campaign


جدارية “كوليرا”:
يموت اليمنيون الف مرة،، ولا أحد يكترث. لا أطراف الصراع، ولا المجتمع الدولي ولم نعد حتى نحن نكترث بأنفسنا. كم هو مشين أن يموت الناس هنا من مرض تافه تم القضاء عليه في معظم بلدان العالم ومنها اليمن. الاشنع من هذا انه كان بإمكان تفادي إنتشار المرض بسهولة وباقل الجهود، ولكن عدم الإكتراث بحياة اليمنيين يؤدي كل يوم إلى تزايد مرعب في عدد ضحايا الكوليرا. كم هو صعب أن تكون يمني في هذا الوقت، وكم هو أصعب أن تكون طفلاً لا يعرف سوى الف مفردة للموت.
جداريتي “كوليرا” على جدار مستشفى الجمهوري، ضمن #حملة_حطام، 23 مايو 2017.
“Cholera” Mural:
Yemenis die a thousand times, and no one cares! Not the parties of the conflict, nor the international community and even we no longer care about ourselves. It is outrageous that people here die from a trivial disease that has been eliminated in most countries of the world, including Yemen. What is more gruesome is that it was possible to avoid the spread of the disease easily and with minimal efforts, but the lack of attention to the lives of Yemenis leads every day to an alarming increase in the number of victims of cholera. It’s difficult to be a Yemeni at this time, and even more difficult to be a Yemeni child who grow up knowing only a thousand meanings of death.
My mural “Cholera” on the wall of al-Jamhouri Hospital in Sana’a, within #Ruins_campaign, May 23, 2017.
My mural, “Ruins” campaign

Di Tengah Konflik Perang Yaman, Duo Street Artist Serukan Perdamaian\ On the Indonesian website “detik HOT”



Di Tengah Konflik Perang Yaman, Duo Street Artist Serukan Perdamaian

Rabu, 29 Mar 2017 10:31 WIB  ·   Tia Agnes – detikHOT

Jakarta – Perang saudara Yaman terus berkecamuk sejak Maret 2015 silam. Kondisi konflik berkepanjangan, membuat street artist Murad Subay yang dikenal sebagai Banksy-nya Yaman untuk menciptakan festival street art antara Yaman dan Inggris.

Dia menggandeng seniman Inggris bernama Lisa-Marie Gibbs untuk membuat peristiwa seni jalanan yang bersejarah. Sekaligus tak terlupakan di dua negara tersebut.

“Pesan dari festival ini adalah membawa pesan perdamaian. Kami sama-sama memprotes dengan cara yang artsy dan tidak membayakan siapapun,” tutur Murad Subay, dikutip dari BBC, Rabu (29/3/2017).

Simak: Gelar Pameran Bersama, Aliansyah Caniago dan Boo Ji Hyun Eksplorasi Jakarta

Di Tengah Konflik Perang Yaman, Duo <i>Street Artist</i> Serukan Perdamaian Foto: Istimewa

Di Inggris, Lisa-Marie Gibbs membuat festival serupa. Dia mengajak anak-anak kecil dan warga sipil untuk menggambar dan membawa pesan perdamaian terhadap konflik berkepanjangan Yaman.

“Murad Subay mengundang saya dan kami membuat kolaborasi dua negara ini. Simbol kupu-kupu kami gunakan untuk menjelaskan aksi kecil bisa berdampak luar biasa bagi sejarah bangsa Yaman. Baik di Inggris dan Sanaa Yaman kami membawa pesan yang sama,” tutur Lisa-Marie.

Lewat seni pula, lanjut dia, seni bisa membawa pesan yang sulit tersampaikan menjadi lebih muda. “Kami berharap orang-orang bisa menerima pesan ini dan menyebarluaskannya pada masyarakat,” pungkasnya lagi.

“Open Day of Art” March 15, 2017

“Open Day of Art”
At the time when wars and borders divide people, art reunites them from across different continents and cultures.
Open Day of Art is an annual event by the people and for the people. It is a day of art that seeks to give people the opportunity to express their different identities, their hopes for peace and values of coexistence, and their continued rejection of violence and war. To this end, we are pleased to invite you to participate in making this day by painting on the southern wall of Sana’a University, the venue off Rabat Street in front of “October 14” police station, Sana’a, Yemen, on March 15, 2017. In reviving this event, artists and people of Reading, Britain will be joining us this year in a collaboration organized by the brilliant British artist Lisa-Marie Gibbs. The event will forge a cross-border link between people in Britain and people in Yemen who are choosing to convert the walls of their cities into public art exhibitions open to all and reflecting their unique stories and different identities, simultaneously.
This invitation is open to everyone from across different cultural backgrounds, experiences, ages and races. Participation in this event is not limited to those who have a background in arts. Rather this event is an open platform for everyone to express themselves through art. Please bring your own colors and painting tools if you have them, and if you don’t have a background in arts then we will have enough colors to share with everyone.

‘Nobody taking responsibility for Yemen war’ – Arab Banksy to RT


‘Nobody taking responsibility for Yemen war’ – Arab Banksy to RT


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.

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Continue reading “‘Nobody taking responsibility for Yemen war’ – Arab Banksy to RT”