Graffiti for peace
Calligraphist Saleh al Shukairi was among 20 distinguished artists from around the world last month to commemorate the Czech Republic's 30 Years of Freedom celebrations in Prague. In the project - called 'Meet Art' - held under the auspices of the Czech Senate, and co-organised by the Czech Chamber of Commerce, the artists rendered creations inspired by the message of peace on Prague's iconic John Lennon Wall.
The 30 Years of Freedom celebrations mark the fall of communism in a non-violent transition of power, called the Velvet Revolution, in what was then Czechoslovakia in the winter of 1989. The peaceful uprising brought about the end of 41 years of one-party communist rule and saw the election of playwright-turned dissident Vaclav Havel as the country's first democratically elected president in decades. Citizens of the Czech Republic are celebrating the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in yearlong festivities, including the Meet Art project featuring Shukairi on the Lennon Wall.Since The Beatles frontman's murder in 1980, the wall near a popular park in a historic neighbourhood of Prague was graffitied with lyrics of the band's songs and portraits of Lennon. As communism was coming to an end, it was the site where young Czechs wrote their grievances against the regime. It was billed as the 'lone outpost for free speech' for almost a decade, becoming a popular destination for tourists and a symbolic site of the Czech opposition to the communist regime. It has symbolic value and continuously undergoes change with new art and messages appearing even today.The Meet Art project of 30 Years of Freedom celebrations involved a 150sq m section of the wall being repainted. The new images created by the 20 artists included a depiction of Havel as a young man wearing a T-shirt with 'A Future of Freedom' printed on it, a map of the world with 'All you need is love' written in 30 languages symbolising the anniversary, and a large number '30' with the zero as a smiley face, among other things.Shukairi created his calligraphy on a 2mX4m strip of the wall in different colours. "I could show both the dynamic of Arabic calligraphy as well as how beautiful art is and how you can transfer words to an art piece," he said.According to Shukairi, he created words which every Arabic-speaking person can understand. "However, when you see the piece you will know you are looking at something related to love, passion, and the whole feeling of love."I believe I was invited to be a part of this project because Oman is known for its efforts to build on peace in the world and brotherhood among nations.”Among the artists to paint on the Lennon Wall with Shukairi was Abdullah Mohammad al Maainah, UAE's Ambassador to the Czech Republic, who designed the flag of his country as a student.Meet Art was spearheaded by prominent Czech designer and typographer Pavel Stastny who said the celebrations of 30 Years of Freedom have only just begun and they wanted to give the wall a new face as besides being a Czech symbol, it is also recognised internationally."Over the past 30 years, the wall became one of the tourists’ most sought-after locations in Prague, although it has been losing its original artistic vision. That is why the first event of the celebrations of 30 Years of Freedom is the recovery of artistic vision and symbolic meaning of the Lennon Wall," Stastny said in a Facebook post.The celebrations will include several exhibitions in a buildup to the finale in November.