Abu Malik al-Shami is a Syrian rebel fighter who favours paint over guns.
A girl pointing to a heart – teaching a soldier about love, before he goes out to fight.
He sprays his murals across the transient backdrop of war, the ruins of Darayya – the blackboard of an abandoned school, slabs from a back-broken bridge. His paintings flash brief, indefinite lives amongst the smouldering grey. A girl climbs a mountain of skulls to etch “Hope” onto the corner of a caved in roof. Elsewhere, a caption next to the picture of a despondent, bombarded mother reads with forthright irony “Happy Mother’s Day”.
This caption reads "Happy Mother's Day" – in the Arab world, the holiday is celebrated on 21st March.
Shami’s work is poignant because of its relevance. The message is immediately identifiable – the motif of peace explicit because of the martial theme. The effectiveness is in the simplicity of his iconology. His art is accessible and non-confrontational. A child points to love, the innocent lead the way; it’s a sideline commentary on the civil war, rendered from frontline experience. It speaks to everyone equally, judging on repercussion and not on motive.
The Xs represent Russian and Syrian warplanes, and the Os represent tyres which children in Aleppo have been burning in order to create smokescreens.