Arab artists reflect on killings in Syrian town of Houla


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BEIRUT -- In the aftermath of the killings of 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla, most of them women and children, Arab artists are starting to produce art to reflect on the massacre that has horrified the world.


For days, Syrian painter Heba Akkad said she could only think about Houla. ‘I really tried to paint something else but I couldn’t,’ Akkad said. Her piece, ‘Night in al-Houla,’ uses a bit of red, a color not often used in her work, and contains faces of people from the town.

‘When the piece was exhibited in one of the galleries in Amman few days ago, a woman came by and told me, ‘You should paint something more cheerful.’ I was in shock. How can you paint something more cheerful hearing the news from Syria?’ Akkad asked.

While Akkad pulled out her paintbrushes, a Jordanian Palestinian hip-hop artist named El-Far3i wrote a song called ‘Birds of Houla’ on a sleepless night.

‘I couldn’t stand my silence and the world’s silence,’ he wrote on Soundcloud, a website for music uploads.

Both artists focus on children in their works, reflecting the mass outrage at the slaying of youth. Akkad depicts the face of a child while El-Far3i raps: ‘Tonight, the smell of blood coming from the north is torturing me / Tonight, children of Gaza and Houla will play together / But I feel that from heaven / Their eyes are observing me / the observers, shabiha, and envoys.’

Shabiha are armed militias loyal to the government, believed by the U.N. peacekeeping chief to have been behind most of the Houla killings. The Syrian government says its own investigation has found that armed rebels were to blame for the deaths, a finding a U.S. diplomat called a ‘blatant lie.’

For the record, 10:45 a.m. June 5: A previous version of this post incorrectly gave artist Heba Akkad’s first name as Heb.


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