Living off the Wall: A Day with the Protest-Mural Painters of Nasiriyah

By Haider Yacoubi, Nasiriyah

Local man Ali Kazem begins his day on a central bridge in the city of Nasiriyah by sharpening his pencil. The 22-year-old is one of the artists who has been drawing murals during this province’s anti-government protests and he is planning a new artwork today.
The mural he plans will depict the Iraqi soccer team’s recent victory over Iran during qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup and in his painting, he will include a portrait of team member Safaa Hadi wearing a mask, the same way the anti-government protesters do. The player has been seen as sympathetic to the young, mostly male protesters and this is a way of thanking him for that, Kazem explained.
Kazem starts drawing, then moves away a little, to better see his work at a distance. Like most of the other mural artists here, he is unemployed. The demand for jobs was one of the main reasons anti-government protests in Iraq started. Kazem looks at the wall and then back at his phone, where he has the original image he is copying from.

A few meters to his left, another painter who wanted to be known only as Ahmed puts the finishing touches to his work. He squats down and puts his brush into a water bottle. “I’m done,” he explains, sighing.
Ahmed takes off the gloves he was wearing to paint; he has just turned 18 and is now eligible to vote in Iraq. “This wall has exhausted me,” he says, sitting on the curb, hands on his knees, legs extended. “I had to whitewash it several times before painting because I couldn’t get the dirt off it, after tires were burned nearby.”
For this mural, Ahmed says he was inspired by a now-famous video in which an elderly man at the protests was being beaten by the police. Despite the blows, the man seemed determined to keep holding his Iraqi flag aloft.
“I was shivering as I watched it,” Ahmed explains. “He was in pain but he refused to let the flag touch the ground.”
Ahmed eventually hopes to finish high school and then do a fine arts degree. “I hope nobody burns any tires near my work,” he adds.
Next to him, Kazem has finished applying the green of the football player’s shirt to his artwork. He is now mixing some new colours on a wooden palette next to him on the ground.
On the other side of the bridge, we meet Dirar Haider, who is working on his fourth painting, using only black and white.
“No problems,” Haider shouts to the painter who is working above him and who has accidentally spilled some drops of green onto the monotone artwork. “It’s fine, I’ll fix it,” he says, lighting his cigarette. “We all have one goal here: reform,” he adds, grinning.
Haider is 25 years old and he’s wearing a white lab coat to work in. This is no accident – when he is not here he works as a laboratory assistant at a local hospital. “I finish work and come here,” he says. “And the message of this painting is love and peace. I replaced the smoke bomb with a bouquet of flowers.”
Just then a taxi pulled up next to the painter and stopped. The driver rolled down the window. “May God give you strength” he said, before driving on.

“Some of the paintings are my own ideas,” Haider explains, “others are inspired by paintings from the Arab Spring, with a few alterations. The violence that has happened here in Nasiriyah leaves the world with a bad image of our city. We’re here to rectify that,” he says.
A young woman gets out of a car, together with her mother. Manar al-Zaidi walks towards a wall near where Haider is painting and the two exchange greetings. Most of the painters here today met on Instagram. “Thank goodness, nobody took my space,” al-Zaidi says, as she pulls out her tools to start work on a small area of wall that she had labelled “reserved”.
Meanwhile her mother is walking among the other painters, distributing sweets and bottles of water.
“The problems of this country have not killed our creativity,” al-Zaidi says. “We will fill these walls with colours, so that the world knows we are here and that we want to spread peace,” she proclaims.

Back at Kazem’s mural, the pencil is still tucked behind his ear. But now his fingers are so covered in paint and stains that he can hardly use the screen on his mobile phone, to compare his painting and the photograph of the football player.
He moves back a little more, assessing his work, a frown on his face, his eyebrows arched. His eyes go from the phone to the picture and back again. Then he smiles, just faintly. He is finished this painting he put so much effort into. He takes some varnish out to apply a final layer and laughs. “I swear, I am a great painter!,” he calls out to the other artists working here. Everyone laughs.

Related Articles

158 Comments

  1. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had
    been conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast due to the fact
    that I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this….
    Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this matter here on your web page.

  2. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your site offered us with valuable information to work
    on. You’ve done an impressive job and our whole community will be thankful to you.

  3. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog
    and I am impressed! Very helpful information particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot.
    I was seeking this particular info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  4. I have been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It’s pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good
    content as you did, the net will be much more useful
    than ever before.

  5. Hello, i believe that i saw you visited my site so i came to return the
    prefer?.I’m trying to to find issues to improve my website!I suppose its adequate to
    make use of some of your ideas!!

  6. Aw, this was a very good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get anything done.

  7. If you are going for finest contents like I do, only pay a visit this web page
    everyday because it presents feature contents, thanks

  8. certainly like your web-site however you need to test the spelling on quite a
    few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to inform the
    reality however I will certainly come back again.

  9. Magnificent beat ! I wish to apprentice even as you amend
    your web site, how could i subscribe for a
    weblog web site? The account helped me a acceptable deal.
    I were tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided brilliant transparent idea

  10. Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using?

    I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
    Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and
    I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask! quest bars http://j.mp/3C2tkMR quest bars

  11. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so
    much, However I am encountering issues with your RSS.
    I don’t know why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody
    else having identical RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond?
    Thanks!! scoliosis surgery https://0401mm.tumblr.com/ scoliosis surgery

  12. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site so i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things to
    enhance my site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  13. Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.

    Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty
    fast. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not
    sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions?
    Thanks

  14. Titornadiort Atoms with completely filled orbits these are atoms of the socalled noble gases helium neon argon krypton and xenon cannot share electrons with other elements and are therefore chemically most inert. https://www.alevitrasp.com They keep themselves ordered for a while at the expense of the environment.

  15. Fjysxx Order Now Amoxicilina Antibiotic Cod Accepted Prednisone Vhzzuq Which enzymes are used depends on what kind of food you ate and how much you consumed.

  16. I’m really inspired together with your writing skills as smartly as with the
    structure in your weblog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you customize it yourself?
    Anyway stay up the nice high quality writing, it is rare
    to see a nice weblog like this one today..

  17. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Firefox.
    I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser
    compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.

    The design look great though! Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Thanks

  18. It is perfect time to make a few plans for the longer term and it is time to be happy.
    I have learn this post and if I could I desire to counsel you
    few interesting things or advice. Perhaps you can write
    next articles regarding this article. I want to learn more
    things approximately it!

  19. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  20. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation but
    I find this matter to be actually something that I feel I would never understand.
    It kind of feels too complex and very huge for me. I’m
    looking ahead on your subsequent put up, I will try to get the hang of it!

  21. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home
    a little bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog.
    A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

  22. Hey there I am so glad I found your weblog, I really found
    you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Anyhow I am here now and
    would just like to say cheers for a incredible post and
    a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read
    through it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds,
    so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the superb jo.

  23. Excellent website you have here but I was wanting to know if you
    knew of any community forums that cover the
    same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be
    a part of group where I can get responses from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Many thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button