Reincarnation is a fundamental belief in the Druze faith, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion centred in the Middle East. The Druze believe in the transmigration of the soul, where the soul is reborn in a new body after death.
Reincarnation is an artistic project that metaphorically resonates with the spiritual belief of rebirth seen in the Druze faith. Through examining the transformation of public spaces via graffiti in Syria, the project reflects upon reincarnation, using it as a metaphor for the continued rebirth act of resistance and resilience.
The Syrian graffiti started as a movement when 13-year-old boys sprayed anti-regime slogans on their school walls in Daraa, sparking the uprising. Since then, graffiti has become a visual tool in the psychological war against the regime, evolving into more pictorial works and encompassing universal messages. The Syrian regime understood its possible implications to the point where ID was needed to buy spray cans if the government needed to find buyers.
In the early stages of the Syrian revolution, creating graffiti art on the streets of Syrian cities was nearly impossible. The regime maintained an iron grip over all aspects of Syrian life, particularly in public spaces. Engaging in such activities could easily result in imprisonment or even death. Consequently, graffiti served as a swift and decisive means of communication to break down walls of fear. Later, when the province of Idlib emerged as the most significant region outside of regime control, graffiti artists finally had the opportunity to let their creativity flourish without the constant threat of repression, and a new phase started.
Because of the erasing and destroying of some of these graffiti pieces, the project is reincarnating some of the most iconic Syrian graffiti pieces to new locations, giving them new life to emphasise the continuity of unique cross-borders, struggles, and cultural collaboration.
In the framework of the 4th edition of URBANARTS, Khaled Barakeh was invited to intervene on some walls around Malmö. The project resulted in 3 graffiti pieces in collaboration with the local artists: Pärra Von Andreasson- Ruskig ångest, Julia Cheerup and Nils Salinder- Konstnizze.
A first part of Reincarnation is at the Graffiti Hangar Ystadgatan/Enskifteshagen. The featured artwork comes from the creative mind of Abu Malik Al-Shami, also known as the Banksy of Syria. Born in 1994, Al-Shami embarked on his artistic journey amidst the tumultuous backdrop of the Syrian Revolution, his chosen canvas being the ruined walls of conflict-stricken locales. His art, a form of silent but powerful protest, found its way to various cities across Syria, resulting in over a hundred poignant graffiti pieces. In 2022, Al-Shami reached Turkey, where he is currently questing for his artistic refinement at Mimar Sinan University.
Two locations host a second piece from Syria. P-huset Anna - the oldest legal graffiti wall in Sweden- and in Folketspark are the places for an on-site reenactment of the 13-year-old boys’ graffiti. The piece read, “It’s your turn, Doctor”, a message directed at President Bashar al-Assad, an ophthalmologist before his presidency. This graffiti, mirroring the spirit of the Arab Spring that led to regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt, resulted in the boys’ arrest and subsequent torture by local security forces. This incited outrage in Dara’a and across the country, sparking protests demanding the boys’ release and marking the onset of widespread civil unrest, culminating in the Syrian revolution.
For more info on Al-Shami, you can see his Instagram @abu.malek.alshami and watch this documentary by the TRT World.