In response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, people around the world have taken to the streets in huge numbers in solidarity with protesters in America. The Black Lives Matter movement is gaining momentum and the rage has gone global. In the Middle East, four artists express their support to the movement and a reckoning of endemic racism in the Middle East through their artwork:
The Palestinian-American artist Shirien Damra marries design with her passion for social justice and healing through her work – most of which she shares on her Instagram account. “Heartbroken, angry and disgusted. This must end. Much love and solidarity to Black communities grieving another beautiful life lost. May George Floyd Rest in Power,” she shared.
She also speaks about the Nakba: Every year on May 15, Palestinians around the world commemorate the Nakba (النكبة), Arabic for “catastrophe”, which refers to the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestine and the near-total destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 which uprooted and destroyed more than 750,000 Palestinian families and homes.
Lebanese artist Nouri Flayhan believes in using her platform to voice her opinions on social injustice and draw attention to racism in the Arab world with her graphic and visual works of art. “Let’s not forget that the term ‘abeed’ which means slaves is still being used in Arab homes to refer to black people. I’ve heard of some youth who didn’t even know what this term meant and used it as a result of their own families using it around them. Make sure you have conversations about this amongst each other and call out this issue. I grew up visiting Lebanon where a popular sweet with a chocolate coating and marshmallow insides was called ‘ras el abed’ head of the slave and only 10 years ago was changed to ‘tarboosh,’” she writes on Instagram.
“Let’s not pretend that racism doesn’t exist in the Arab region. As we look and see what is happening around us, we are also looking within our own communities. We can all do better, we need to acknowledge the racism issues we have in the Arab region, have uncomfortable conversations about them. Reﬂect on how it affects the people in our region & try & create and be a positive change for our communities and region,” Flayhan adds in another post.
Palestinian artist living in Jordan, Lina Abojaradeh’s recent artwork strives to find common ground between the social injustice that African Americans and Native Americans face in America with the experience of Palestinians in Palestine. “As an artist and activist, I had to draw something in response to the murder of George Floyd. I stayed up all night to ﬁnish this, and couldn’t help but think of how connected different forms of oppression are. The black man choked to death, the Palestinian worshipper being beaten, the indigenous native women facing violence… It is all rooted in the settler colonialism mentality, and in the deeply systematized belief of the supremacy of one race over another. I wanted this drawing to convey power, and so the ﬁsted hands symbolize our ﬁght for every single lost life in this war against oppression,” she shares alongside her artwork on Instagram.
Syrian artist, Asmar painted a mural of George Floyd on a civil-war destroyed building wall in Idlib, Syria, with the words ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘No to racism’ all over it. For Asmar, the video of Floyd brings back memories of the war in Syria.“In those hospitals, the victims were crying and they were asking to breathe,” Asmar tells Time via an interpreter, from the town of Binnish in northwest Syria. “I saw George Floyd pleading with the officer to let him breathe and it reminded me of the way they were killed,” he added.