Dissident Syrian artists display work at Mashrabia gallery

Farah Montasser, Friday 9 Mar 2012

The '92s Syria' exhibition, featuring the work of several revolutionary Syrian artists, will run at Cairo's Mashrabia Art Gallery from 11 to 29 March


Despite the current difficult political situation in Syria, several dissident Syrian artists will open a collective exhibition at Cairo's Mashrabia Art Gallery on Sunday, 11 March. "92s Syria" will feature the work of Youssef Abdelke, Heba Akkad, Assem Al-Basha, Tarek Boteihy, Naser Hosain, Fadi Yazjy, Edwar Shahda, Yaser Safy, Abdulla Murad, and Mounir Al-Shaarani.

Their artwork was inspired by the ongoing Syrian rebellion, and reflects a developing artistic revolution as well, say exhibition organisers.

"Since Mashrabia opened, my aim has always been to link all Arab cultures together through art," says gallery manager Stefania Angarano. "It's important to bring the Syrian revolution – and what is happening to the Syrian people – to Egypt, so that local audiences will better understand the Syrian situation."

Since its establishment, the Mashrabia gallery's aim has been to teach the value of art, and how art can serve as an important bond between countries and people.

"Today, Syrian artists are in a dreadful position, with nowhere to produce or display their art. It was our aim to provide them with such a platform," Angarano says, stressing the importance of keeping the public informed about what is currently taking place in the troubled country.

"It's not our first time to feature Syrian artists at Mashrabia," Angarano tells Ahram Online. "I've worked with Al-Shaarani before, and it was actually his idea to discuss the Syrian revolution through art."

She added: "Syrian art is among the best in the region, and it's important today to remind audiences about the misery Syrian artists are currently facing – and how they're continuing to produce art."

Determined to present their work to the world, participating artists have sent their work to the gallery from Syria since they are unable to leave the country at the moment – except for Al-Shaarani, who is co-curating the exhibition along with Angarano.

"I'm the only one who managed to come to Cairo, and I'm honoured to present the work of my colleagues and our revolution," Al-Shaarani tells Ahram Online. "We seek freedom of expression and living."

"We're presenting art inspired by the Syrian revolution," he adds. "Following the outbreak of the revolution, we, the artists, launched two Facebook initiatives aimed at supporting the youth and their revolution in Syria."

Both initiatives aim to present art lovers with new artistic schools and visions, and to present these protesting Syrian artists to the world. One of the initiatives is entitled El-Fan min Wahy El-Thawra ("Art Inspired by the Revolution"); the other is called El-Fan we El-Horreya ("Art and Liberty").

"Both campaigns were launched from inside Syria, where we seek freedom of expression," says Al-Shaarani. "From there, we decided to carry our art outside Syria, beginning with Egypt. Later, we'll tour other Arab countries."

Where their next stop will be, however, has yet to be determined, says Al-Shaarani, "for the safety of my fellow artists in Syria."

"Potential artists in Syria, as in Egypt, don't have a chance to present their ideas, creations and visions," he adds. "Only those who were close to the Syrian regime ever benefited personally."

As Al-Shaarani puts it, the Assad family and regime managed to halt the development of education and culture. According to the artist, President Bashar Al-Assad appeared to Syrians and the world as pro-development, "when, in reality, nothing was being done."

"We had to fund and create our own modest galleries, while those with ties to the regime received funding and support from the ruling family," Al-Shaarani adds.

"Today, artists in Syria are targeted by the regime," he explains. "Detention has been a method long used by the regime, and artists are often targets."

"Art lives and grows, no matter how severe the conditions, and this exhibition is intended to show the determination of artists to fight for their rights through the techniques they know best – which are painting and drawing," Angarano says.


Sunday, 11 March, from 7:00pm

Mashrabia Art Gallery

8 Champollion Street, Downtown Cairo

Opening hours: Daily (except Fridays) from 11am to 8pm

The exhibition will run until 29 March.

A panel discussion will be held on Monday, 12 March, at 7pm, entitled, "The Revolution in Syria: Problems and Prospects."

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