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10 Artists that Transformed Our Vision of the Middle East in 2014

Art as a form of resistance. Art as therapy. Art as an attempt to break the chains of imagination and explore the infinite intersections that bound us humans together. BarakaBits has selected 10 artists that transformed our vision of the Middle East, a region that, while represented univocally around the world, expresses in art the reality no voice can utter. 

1) Why This 12-Year-Old Artist Refused To Be Called “The Arab Picasso”Portraying the daily asphyxia that Gazans endure, but also the vivid hope that dwells in its every citizen, this incredibly young artist gave resilience a whole new meaning. Last summer, he presented his artwork in Tunisia, and is now aiming to break a Guinness Record.

2) This Iraqi Artist Has a Painting Style That May Surprise You: Painting animals, popular buildings, and the map of his beloved Iraq with ice cream, Othman Emad shows there is no limits when inspiration calls. His unique vision helped him to dominate social media and obtain recognition by international media.

3) Even If You Don’t Know Arabic, These “Lost Walls” Will Speak to You: The inventor of a new language — calligraffiti — El Seed mixes design and poetry with graffitis that reinvent the public space. After an inspiring partnership with Louis Vuitton, this year he turned a four-week road trip along his country’s back roads into a colorful dialogue with 24 “lost walls.”

4) Surprising Clay Sculptures Honor the Victims of Gaza: Designed by Palestinian artist Iyad Sabah and displayed in the beaches of Al-Shejaya shortly after Israel’s operation Protective Edge, the series of sculptures took Gazans by surprise last October, rising from the ashes like a phoenix.

5) Djerbahood: 150 Street Artists Transform Mediterranean Island into a Dream-Like MuseumFrom South Africa to Argentina, from Japan to Iraq, street artists from 30 different countries turned the paradisiac island of Djerba, in Tunisia, into the Middle East’s largest open-air exhibition. 


6) 10 Minutes with Iraqi Artist Ayad Alkadhi: Drawing re-imagined portraits of history often covered by the swooping curves of Arabic calligraphy, this Iraqi artist creates the future memory of the Arab world using mixed media with a collage-like feel.

7) Egypt’s Most Famous Graffiti Artist Goes Global. And Manages to Remain Anonymous. An unmistakable icon in the Egyptian public sphere, Keizer materializes the spirit of a changing environment in his revolutionary stencils across Cairo. “Street art can modify and reshape the existing narratives,” he tells BarakaBits as he goes on a tour across Europe.

8) 5 Questions with Iranian Visual-Artist Tarlan Rafiee: Her impressive, mural-like works of art combine Iranian culture of days past with a pop-art style. “It is exactly the opposite of what the broadcasting medias are doing; they want to isolate us and separate us from the world and we, as artists, are expanding to the world,” she said in an interview with Barakabits.

9) From Junk To Gems: One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure: This Lebanese artist gave an imaginative, resourceful twist to Middle Eastern art when she turned packaging material from computer servers, ink cartridges, and take-away meals into carefully hand-painted characters.

10) Gaza Turns Bombs into Works of Art: The 2014 Guernica? Gaza’s innate talent for life, summarized in one image. As they draw powerful sketches over photos of smoke bombs, Tawfik Gebreel and Bushra Shanan transform pictures of devastation into symbols of resistance and unity.

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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