Yemen: Color Me a Wall

* First published in Al-Akhbar

 In March the Yemeni artist Murad Subai began a creative initiative named “color the walls of your street,” to promote the rehabilitation of areas that underwent conflict through art.

“Our walls in Yemen are decorated with bullets and destruction,” said the 25-year old artist. “I wanted them to emanate with life instead.”

On March 15 Murad created a Facebook group where he invited others to join him in coloring the walls in areas that were damaged. He spent one-week painting alone, and then on March 22nd, others joined him and continue to join him every Thursday morning.

The goal of this initiative is “to make art the common denominator between all people, and to give them hope for the future,” he said while painting. Anyone is welcome to join in and there are no rules for what you can draw. The plan has transformed casual visitors into active participants, becoming part of the artwork.

Some paintings spread social messages such as tolerance, women’s rights, and the plight of marginalized communities. Others paint to instill hope, while some just aim to express inner emotions. “These people have made us proud and have raised our head high, who knew we had so much talent?” said a passerby.

Yemenis on the whole have been incredibly supportive. “We all thought that there would be more negative reaction from people but it was the opposite, I did not imagine that this idea would get this much support from all kinds of people, civilians, armed men, women, children,” said Sahar Abdullah, a 25-year-old activist. “When I pass by these walls I get a feeling of utter happiness for two reasons: because it looks beautiful, and second because I was part of it,” she added.

When the artists leave the area, the wall is no longer silent. It has changed from a wall of despair, to a wall that speak of life, courage, and hope. It is a wall that speaks the language of the community and hence serves the purposes of community building and artistic expression.

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