A new image from the British street artist evokes both the cost of the conflict and the hope for peace.
My obsession with street art is hard to explain. All I know is I that I take pictures of it everywhere I go, from the delicate, elaborate murals swirling across turn-of-the-century facades in Buenos Aires to a broken-payphone-turned-sculpture in my Boston neighborhood. I’m fascinated by any work of art that integrates itself into the fabric of urban life.
That’s why I was excited to hear that the world’s best-known street artist, Banksy, has teamed up with Oxfam and other groups this week to highlight the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria. Of course, the anonymous British provocateur is much more than a graffiti artist—his playful, confrontational stencils have become iconic online and in print, too, challenging us to redefine the limits of the genre.
Banksy’s new graphic, a reworking of his famous image of a girl holding a red, heart-shaped balloon, evokes a sense both of hope and of loss. It’s an appropriate image at a time when the crisis in Syria has reached staggering proportions. More than 100,000 people have been killed. Millions more have been driven from their homes. Oxfam is helping more than 900,000 people across Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan with lifesaving essentials, but the needs of families remain enormous.
Still, hope for peace remains strong. This week, Syrian voices have joined a coalition of more than 50 humanitarian and human rights groups from all over the world—including Oxfam, Save the Children, Amnesty International, and the International Rescue Committee–to simultaneously call on world leaders to commit to making this the last anniversary marked by bloodshed.
The campaign, which uses the hashtag #WithSyria, calls for urgent action to ensure that Syrians in need (including civilians in areas under siege) can access aid. Oxfam’s also calling for the voices of ordinary Syrians to be heard and heeded in reconvened peace talks.
Supporters will be organizing candlelit vigils at prominent locations around the world this week—in Zaatari Camp in Jordan, in front of the US Capitol, in London’s Trafalgar Square, and at the Eiffel Tower, among other sites–to show their solidarity with Syrians affected by the conflict. Even if you can’t attend a vigil, you can help by donating to Oxfam’s relief effort and by spreading the word about the #WithSyria campaign on social media.
The women, men, and children of Syria are clamoring for their right to live free from violence. From Banksy to everyday people like us, it’s time to join them and bring an end to conflict.