It is said that art cannot flourish without conflict. Whether it is conflict on a personal level or on a societal level, art serves as something of an outlet for the heightened emotional state of the artist. And when an entire community is on edge, the art produced ends up reflecting the state of that entire community. This is perhaps the reason why the Aslan Art Centre in Afrin organised its exhibition of drawings, paintings, murals and portraits under the shadow of political uncertainty and military conflict.
The exhibition consists of 145 pieces of art that have been produced by the 25 students of the Aslan Art Centre. The exhibition received support from the University of Afrin, which also allowed the exhibition to be set up in its halls. Subject matter varies. Many of the pieces depict still life and images of nature from countryside surrounding Afrin. Others are portraits and profiles of individuals, including many displaced people who have made the city their home.
Indeed, the subject of Syria’s on-going conflict and the political troubles shadowing life in the city are a frequent source of inspiration for the artists. Although Afrin has avoided the worst of Syria’s conflict, its population swelled as a result of the displacement happening in the rest of the Aleppo Province, increasing tensions as a result. Furthermore, the city is held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Turkey believes is linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). As a result, Turkish shelling in the local countryside is a frequent occurrence, as are Turkish threats to launch an anti-YPG ground operation.
It is therefore unsurprising that the looming conflict is a frequent subject matter of the artwork exhibited here. In times of uncertainty, art provides a form of expression few other mediums can provide. Social problems, traumatic experiences and a vision for a better future can all be expressed through art, providing an avenue for healing and an opportunity to witness beauty.