From Douma: "Do Not Let the Grey Illusion Fool You"

20 May 2014

The city of Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, has been at the forefront of the many different phases of Syria’s revolution. It was one of the first towns to rise up in mass demonstrations against the regime. In late 2011, it was also one of the first towns to take up arms in resistance. This has placed Douma on the frontline in the battle against the regime, with all that entails of destruction, siege, famine, massacres and the emaciation of its core groups of civil activists.

Repression has turned a once-bustling hub into a city of rubble. Its famously green orchards and blue horizon have taken on the grey hue of destruction. However, citizen resilience, will and creativity continue to manage to bring life back from the rubble. Al-Sahra (the Desert, in Arabic) stands out among such initiatives by countering destruction with brushes and colors.

رسم غرافيتي من مجموعة الصحراء ...المصدر: الصفحة الرسمية للمجموعة على الفيسبوك
A graffiti by al-Sahra group from Douma. Source: Al-Sahra Facebook page.

“This is a small campaign from the heart of Douma. We want to tackle the greyness that has overtaken our city, and to dust off the years of war and fatigue and show a different face: that of a Douma that is besieged yet standing fast,” explain the activists behind the campaign in an interview with SyriaUntold.

Starting in March 2014, the team took their paint and brushes to the city’s walls. Their paintings are peppered with slogans from the revolution that aim to give hope to the inhabitants and to remind them, after three long years, of the earlier days of the revolution. Perhaps most poignantly are the “Be patient, country” paintings that blend that sigh of fatigue and weariness of war with an unmistakable sense of perseverance.

The messages from the besieged, to the besieged, attempt to broach the people’s unconscious and to protect itself, as much as others, from their moments of weakness: “Be yourself, for there are many others like you.” In another mural, a woman is seen giving water to a weary desert, in a most striking symbol of rejuvenation in the face of war, and adeptly subtitled: “Revolution is feminine.”

Legendary Egyptian poet Amal Donqol is also featured on the walls of Douma. His most brilliant and celebrated poem of resistance finds a fitting place for its opening verse on the worn bricks of the city:

Do not reconcile… Even if they granted you gold. What if they gouged out your eyes, And then placed two jewels instead, Would you be able to see? There are things that cannot be purchased.

Much like the city’s earlier demonstrations that spread to other towns, its murals also found themselves traveling to other besieged towns. An anonymous group in the city of Masraba, also in the Damascus outskirts, took upon itself to spread the colorful murals in the town, starting with one elementary statement: “No to hunger, no to humiliation.”

The group’s latest work is an art film called “Don’t Let the Illusion Fool You”, documenting one of its murals: a bird breaking out of its cage to the free skies above. As if to say: don’t let the illusion of oppression fool you, freedom will break all cages.


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad