When creativity emerges from the ashes of war. The story of Damascus mural’s Guinness record


Sometimes art can take unexpected forms. It can come from a careful choice of materials or a handful of rubbish. It can be the result of a long process or arise from simplicity and authenticity. Art can be appreciated in fancy museums or while sipping wine in a gallery but it can also take over neighborhoods and break time as it conquers the public space; storming past the walls of enclosed areas. With Damascus’ mural, we’re talking about the second type of art.

On the 26th of March, a Guinness record was given to a Syrian artist for building the world’s largest mural made of recycled materials.

But let’s go back in time. Six months ago, six Syrians gathered by Moaffak Makhoul had the genius idea to build a mural made from recycled material, using scraps from the streets of war-ravaged Damascus. The mural was made to beautify the area outside a primary school in an upscale neighbourhood called Mazzeh. Yet, this 720 m² mural was actually completed thanks to the helping hand of people from war zones and other areas and supplies from domestic waste given by housewives were also used for the decoration.

Interestingly enough, this story seems to be perfectly illustrating one of Nietzsche’s main theories of art and existence.

In his book The birth of tragedy, the philosopher explains how the tension between the Apollinian and the Dionysian can reflect the full spectrum of humanity with its contradictions. While the Apollinian existence promotes rationality, beauty and order, the Dionysian constantly seeks to affirm life in the most tragic circumstances. In the light of this latter, the visceral life force transcends suffering and pain and actually flourishes from the chaotic nature of these feelings to create order and harmony out of chaos and confusion. Here, the Dionysian aura gave birth to art and created order at different levels. Building the mural brought together people from all walks of life and reunited them over the purpose of restoring hope and creativity in a war-ravaged country. These people attempted to create art where there was destruction, enhance love where hatred was spreading and they brought colors to dark and dusty places.

Bicycles wheels, cooking utensils, pipes, soft drink cans, mirrors and ceramics; all of these were used to build this multi-colored piece of art and the result is a vibrant masterpiece where every single element has a story. In this mosaic of blood, sweat and tears, beauty unexpectedly arises from destruction.

The harmony of the Apollinian is paradoxically reached through a channeled Dionysian impulse. Even in areas where cultural heritage is destroyed everyday; it is always possible to revive joy and love and create order out of chaos. This is what this story proves.

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