Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ali Ferzat: Revolution redefines art in Syria

Ali Ferzat's hands sweep and glide and conjure shapes as he sits in a small art gallery behind Sloane Square in London where his sly deconstructions of authoritarianism are on show.
These are the hands that pricked and provoked the mukhabarat - the security police - in Syria into trying to smash them into silence.
It was last August when he was attacked by masked men in what he describes as one of the most secure parts of Damascus.
"I was beaten here, here and here," he gestures. "My arms were black from the beating."
He was dumped by the side of the road. The attack made headlines across the world.
Getting personal
Wiry and angular like Ferzat himself, his hands are now almost 90% back to normal, he says.

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"The uprising has redefined art in Syria... it's exposed the gulf between real artists and mercenaries in the pay of the state”
Ali Ferzat
The beating came as his style changed from general ridicule of the political system in Syria to specific caricatures of President Bashar al-Assad and his circle.
Ferzat says the switch had begun several months before the protest movement erupted last year.
"I started to get personal," he explains. "Before, I made sure not to draw any official that could be recognised, even though my cartoons were based on real people. And even if someone in power felt they were being targeted, they wouldn't say anything, because that would be like confirming it really was them."
The change is evident from looking at one of his best-known cartoons where a brutish - but generic - apparatchik scrawls a smile on the bandaged face of a beaten prisoner.
Compare that to one of the drawings he did just before his beating.
It shows President Assad himself sweatily clutching a suitcase as he tries to hitch a ride with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who's furiously driving a getaway car.

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