Syrian Kurdish creative resistance in times of war

Syrian artists in the mainly Kurdish northeast are indulging in their newfound freedom to explore their art without regime restrictions. (In the photo: artist Amr Ferso poses next to his works in Amuda)

Syrian Artists Remain Creative on Margins of War


AMUDA, Syria — Living in Syria is not only about survival. For many Syrian artists, it means keeping creativity alive despite hardships and exploiting unprecedented freedom of expression. According to some artists, the revolution should not be limited to the removal of censorship, but by raising awareness on the most rooted social habits and taboos. Nevertheless, for the time being, most artists who wish to remain in Syria lack any form of institutional and economic support.

Walking around the streets of Amuda — 80 km (50 miles) from the front line between jihadists and Kurdish militias in Ras al-Ain — what goes hardly unnoticed is the large proportion of polyhedral artists, devoting their free time to a wide range of activities. It is common to meet a shopkeeper who is eager to read one of his poems or invite you to listen to him play the tambur (a Kurdish string instrument). This is partly because of the lack of specialization, but it is also the symptom of a thriving cultural scene. “Pablo Picasso used to say, ‘We are all born artists, but what’s important is how we preserve this art,'” Rishan Ali Yusef, a sculptor, told Al-Monitor. His day job is cutting marble plates in a factory.

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