BBC News ran a wonderful story last week about depictions of the war in Syria delicately put together with pebbles.
They are the inspirational work of the 52-year-old Syria-based artist and sculptor Nizar Ali Badr, who publishes online. In an interview on the web site Syrian Creative Havens, Nizar Ali Badr describes his work :
“About 60 kilometres from the city of Latakia there is a sacred place that is the source for my artistic inspirations: Mount Zaphon, also known as Djebel Al Aqra. It is there at the foot of the Zaphon that I collected from the seashore thousands of beautiful small rocks, stones and pebbles blessed with a stunning variation in colour and form, and transported them to my workplace to create ten thousands of sculptures.
Unfortunately each time I finish a stone sculpture I have to destroy it, because fixing stones with special glue on special supports has become far too expensive nowadays. The only thing I can do at the present time is taking photos of my ephemeral artworks: this is my way to immortalize them.
So when I create a stone sculpture, I know with certainty that there is nothing there to hold it together. It will, undoubtedly, be destroyed in time, just like the Buddhist sand mandalas. Because of this, there is an ephemerality inherent in my work that requires an ability to let go of attachment to material items and to understand the temporal nature of all things in life.
My Ugarit ancestors who invented the alphabet still live in my genes. As I often feel guided and empowered by them, I think no other artist will be able to make works of Zaphon stone similar to mine. I have created more than ten thousand works of art and I continue to do so to prove to the world that the fierceness and determination of the Syrian people is supreme.”
Some of Nizar Ali Badr’s images are grim: the injuries of war on ordinary men, women, and children. Others reflect the hope that in decades to come, children will laugh again and it will be possible to gather flowers in the fields without fear.
The danger is that, after so many years of anguish, of unimaginable terror and horror, Syrian hearts will have turned to stone and it will be impossible to soften them again.