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Archive for the ‘War Art’ Category

A Visit to Havana, Cuba: Day 2 Part 1: Visit to Museum of Revolution & a brief Review of Political-Military History of Cuba.

(What I am narrating is the story I have heard from multiple Cubans. If only the stories were ever told by the lions and not hunters, they would tell a different story).
Disclaimer: I am no student of history. I am just a storyteller. 😃

Cuba was first exposed to an outside invasion when Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492. This led to Spain colonize Cuba and they appointed Spanish governor generals in Habana. A few failed attempts by different Cubans, including Maximo Gomez in 18th century led to loss of thousands of Cuban lives but not independence. Then in 1898, Spanish-American war drove the Spaniards out of Cuba while US thought they had the moral right to control Cuba.

However in 1902, in just 3 and a half years, Cuba finally gained independence. Post independence the Cuban Republic saw good economic growth but slowly fell into the trap of greedy and corrupt leadership. Last of whom was Military General Flugencio Batista. He ruled from 1940 to 1944. And was them ousted due to corruption. However since he was an US ally, the CIA reinstated him again as a dictator in a military Coup against Scarres 1952. He suspended the 1940 constitution and civil liberties and rights of Cubans to strike or protest.

This irked a young lawyer, Fidel Castro barely 24, and he led protests but since constitution and all rights were suspended, Fidel Castro snd his brother Raul Castro were sent to prison in 1953. However since theirs was a popular protest, Batista was forced to release them and they both left Cuba to Mexico to plan an armed struggle against the dictator.

In Mexico, they were joined by other revolutionaries including Argentine Che Guevara, recieved military training to plan a revolution in Cuba. In November 1956, Fidel and 82 other revolutionaries sailed from Mexico on a cool yatch( yes yes 😃 ) called Granma Yacht to land in Cuba. After a lot of travails and tribulations like sea sickness, lack of supplies, leaking overloaded yatch( it could only house 12 people ideally) they landed in Niquero. This is the same place their hero and poet Jose Marti had chose to land almost 60 years before them. The landing instantly did not lead to their success and many of their companions from the yatch were killed by Batista forces. As fate would have it, only 20 out of 82, including Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos survived and disappeared in the jungles. They then reorganized themselves to continue their guerilla war.

To cut story short, the struggle that started on 26 July 1953 ended in success on Dec 1 1959- 5years snd 5 months later. Batista was ousted and revolutionary govt lead by Fidel Castro was established. Most rich corrupt Cubans fled to Florida. The granma yatch was brought as a mark of revolution to Havana. Ofcourse US was pissed off and it put an embargo against Cuba in 1960 for goods except food and medicines. That embargo was extended to ALL GOODS in remains till date. As if this was not all. In 1961 the CIA in coalition with rich corrupt Cubans who had fled to US after Batista was removed planned an air attack on Cuba. Americans concocted the story that these were Cuban pilots who has planned mutiny against Fidel regime. But smart journalists in Miami during a JFK pressor asked hard questions and proved this was not a revolt by Cubans but an attack led by the Americans. So JFK smartly withdrew his story. An American fighter pilot Rudolf Anderson died as his plane B-24 bomber was shot down by Cubans. But since JFK was telling a false story of Cuban revolt, Americans never admitted to his death. As a result his body remained in Cuba for 19 years until in 1979 it was returned to his widow Jane.

The wreckage of his plane is in display in the Museum of Revolution in Habana, along with Granma Yatcht, that we saw today.There is another interesting story I heard today.

In 1962 when the US embargo was total Che Guevara asked Fidel Castro, “how long do you think this will go on?”
Fidel replied, “Until US has a Black President and Rome has a Latino Pope.”
Our Cadillac driver told us, “His prophesy was proven when Pope Francis ( an Argemtinian) visited in 2015 and he worked to get President Barack Obama to visit Cuba in 20q6. That was the best Cuba-US relations have been. But then rich Cubans in Florida worked to get power and relations are back to old state.”

2 years after the revolution, Che Guevara left Cuba to work for revolution in Angola and Columbia. He died in Columbia.

The pictures below are from Museum of Revolution. If interested in details do read the plaques too.


When US Marines looted Ancient Treasures from Iraq


All those complaining of looting & rioting in US cities in past few days be reminded of the following 2000-5000 year old archaeological treasures looted by US Marines in Iraq in 2003.

“American military members, contractors (such as Blackwater and etc), and others caught with culturally significant artifacts they brought home from the war there largely aren’t prosecuted. It’s not known how many Americans brought home artifacts as souvenirs or war trophies, but one expert suggested that the known cases—a defense contractor who brought back gold-plated items from Saddam’s palaces; a U.S. employee who shipped home an Iraq government seal; a Marine who bought eight ancient looted stone seals off the street—are just “the tiniest tip of the iceberg.”
~ UNESCO ( link here:

In 2006, the headless stone statue of the Sumerian king, Entemena, was recovered after it was offered for sale to a dealer in New York. A year later, a 4,000-year-old inscribed clay tablet was pulled from eBay’s Swiss website minutes before the close of bidding.
In 2008, 11 cylinder seals, made of agate and alabaster, were found by customs agents in Philadelphia.

And worse tragedy is the US Marines, first invaded Iraq, killed their people and then ran away looting their thousands years old Sumerian Civilization Treasures.

When the world was furious and outraged at this, the Secretary of Defense then Donald Rumsfield shrugged it off, “Stuff happens.”

Violence or looting is never okay. Yes, its NEVER okay, not only when a specific skin color or group is doing it, not even when US Marines do it overseas.

#GeorgeFloyd #AntiBlackRacism #PoliceAtrocities #Minneapolis

The Apotheosis of War ~ by Vasily Vereshchagin (War Art-5)

As my fascination and exploration of war art continues, and I discover one powerful artwork after the other, this piece is one of the earliest and is considered as one of the most impactful of art pieces of its time.


The Apotheosis of War (above) was painted by Vasily Vereshchagin in 1871 as an aftermath of a war. The painting in oil on canvas depicts death, destruction and devastation symbolized by skulls, vultures, barren trees and deserted town in the background. The painter  inscribed on the frame:  ‘Dedicated to all great conquerors, past, present and those yet to come.’

A closer look:


Vasily Vershchegin was one of the  most celebrated war painter of his times in Europe and Russia. In an exhibition in Berlin in 1881, a German Filed Marshal visited his exhibition. As Vasily brought him to this painting, the Field Marshal did not like how war was depicted in the painting. He issued orders to his soldiers to not see the exhibition. Austrians and his fellow countrymen Russians were also deeply offended. He was banned to exhibit and even to publish pictures of his art in books.  In anger and frustration he burnt down three of his paintings.

Vasily wrote on war: “Does war have two sides – one that is pleasant and attractive and the other that is ugly and repulsive? No, there is only one war, that  attempts to force the enemy to kill, injure, or take as many people prisoner as possible, while the stronger adversary beats the weaker until the weaker pleads for mercy.”  

Horrors of war obsessed him.  “I loved the sun all my life, and wanted to paint sunshine. When I happened to see warfare and say what I thought about it, I rejoiced that I would be able to devote myself to the sun once again. But the fury of war continued to pursue me,”

He travelled far and wide, and painted avidly on nature, beauty, humanity, miseries and oppression. In 1884 he travelled to India and painted ‘The Mausoleum of Taj Mahal’.
The painting not only reflects Taj’s beauty but also succeeds to capture the tranquility the monument exudes when seen in real life.

VasilyVereshchagin Taj Mahal 1876

What a therapeutic closing of this blog !

When I am overcome with weakness: Poetry by Najat Abdul Samad (War Art-4)


When I am overcome with weakness,

I bandage my heart with a woman’s patience in adversity.
I bandage it with the upright posture of a Syrian woman who is not bent by bereavement, poverty, or displacement as she rises from the banquets of death and carries on shepherding life’s rituals.
She prepares for a creeping, ravenous winter and gathers the heavy firewood branches, stick by stick from the frigid wilderness.
She does not cut a tree, does not steal, does not surrender her soul to weariness, does not ask anyone’s charity, does not fold with the load, and does not yield midway.

I bandage my heart with the determination of that boy they hit with an electric stick on his only kidney until he urinated blood. Yet he returned and walked in the next demonstration.

I bandage it with the steadiness of a child’s steps in the snow of a refugee camp, a child wearing a small black shoe on one foot and a large blue sandal on the other, wandering off and singing to butterflies flying in the sunny skies, butterflies and skies seen only by his eyes.

I bandage it with December’s frozen tree roots, trees that have sworn to blossom in March or April.

I bandage it with the voice of reason that was not affected by a proximate desolation.

I bandage it with veins whose warm blood has not yet been spilled on the surface of our sacred soil.

I bandage it with what was entrusted by our martyrs, with the conscience of the living, and with the image of a beautiful homeland envisioned by the eyes of the poor.

I bandage it with the outcry: “Death and not humiliation.”

When stones get hearts- Sculptures by Nazir Ali Badr (War Art-3)

A 75 year old Syrian Christian lady from Hama, works with my friend’s home as a cook. Apart from the fact that she makes amazing Syrian food, my  friend has employed her to support her financially. Not sure how she came here(as I have not interrogated her), but I know my friend worked hard to get her husband from Syria. The old man was served two deportation orders failing to obtain asylum until about six months ago, the Canadians accepted his application after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The gentleman is going through treatment now here in Canada.

My friend is also working to get her widowed daughter, with two sons 21 and 22 years old who are stuck in Syria. Her daughter’s husband had died in Syria 3 years ago from some medical ailment, failing to get treatment. My friend is working through a nearby mosque she attends to raise funds to call the family as privately sponsored refugees.

Each time I meet her and inquire about her daughter and sons, she has only sad stories to share, of their struggle back home. According to her is no employment, no school and no medical care available where they live currently.

The dedication with which she cooks in my friends house is touching, knowing how hard it is for her own close kin back home.

In my endeavor to look for how Syrians at home and abroad are coping with the conflict, I have been referred to some very creative Syrians who are expressing their pain and agony through various artforms. This only bears witness to the amazing intellect in the Syrian nation, caught in a filthy regional hegemony war.

Nizar Ali Badr a stone sculptor from ‪#‎Latakia‬, ‪#‎Syria‬ now residing in Turkey makes stones sculptures telling ‪#‎Syrian‬ story of torture, war and refugees.
Simple assembly of stones speak of the complex emotions, which words would fail to convey at times.

In his words: “I love dust and stones from.Syria. My message is a humanitarian message.”



Some of his works that portray peace and love are also extremely pleasing.

Nazir13Nazir14 Nazir3


They say miracles do happen and stones do speak. May these powerful stony expressions somehow turn into prayers for peace in Syria.

Refugees-the R-word: Illustrations by Molly Crabapple (War Art-2)


Last week we welcomed in an event three Syrian families who had barely arrived 48 hours ago. Their weather beaten faces were all glowing with smiles.
I asked a 7 year old girl, “What do you like best in Canada?”
She replied with the widest possible grin, “The warmth.”
I thought she meant the hospitality.
Her mom explained with a twinkle in her eyes, “We were living in tents for 2 years. She grew up not knowing that in extreme cold there can be clothes thick enough and home warm enough to avoid cold weather.”
I hugged the mom tight.

Below are a few mind blowing illustrations of Syrian Kurds  by Molly Crabapple, a medical illustrator by proffession. Molly had gone to work with Doctors Without Borders in a Kurdish Syrian Refugee Camp. She illustrated not only their images but also their dreams and fears in words.

Every piece is like reading a novel, that touches somewhere deep. Kindly take time to read the small print too.



For past 5 years, I thought we had been a brave family to have immigrated to far away Canada. We came with a comfort of enough preparation in spirit and in kind.

Never in my mind did I imagine I would be working closely in different capacities for refugees from Syria. The experience of meeting and getting to know some of them has been an incredibly humbling experience.

Refugee was only a word we had often heard and thought understood it’s meaning very well. Knowing its implications, and associating names and faces to this word has been an experience that struggles to find adequate expressions in words.

May Canada and we Canadians be a source of peace and warmth to these new Canadians and all those that arrive in weeks from now.


More War Art blogs to continue…



Freedom Gaffiti ~ by Tammam Azzam (War Art 1)

Syrian war is a shame of our times.

This war had reset the standards of barbarism. Almost all kinds of war weapons have been used from both sides- brutal killings, burning the victims, rapes, hunger, seige and you name it.

I have personally talked to Syrian Refugees Muslims, Christians and Kurds, arriving here, and they speak of Assad and ISIS as the #SAMESHIT. Not one said they were happy with Assad.

As I post the  Channel 4 News Video on Homs, Syria,  a friend comments:
“This level of barbarity should not be possible in today’s day age. Yet, looking at the complete destruction of this city leaves me speechless !”

The images remind me of an artwork from Syria that had gone viral a few years ago. I hunt and hunt and finally dig out a treasure to my amazement.

It was first  of a series  work by Syrian artist Tammam Azzam, who studied fine arts from University of Damascus. Azzam used the devastating, war ravaged images from Syria and superimposed renowned master pieces of the art to send a polite message to the world.

His first piece “Freedom Graffiti” in which he used The Kiss by Gustav Karl was the piece that went viral in February 2013.  Syria1

The other images in the series, by the same artist are equally mindblowing:

Andy Warhol’s ElvisSyria2- Andy Warhol's Elvis


Henry Matisse’s The Dance: Syria3 Henry Matisse's The Dance

Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night:Syria4 Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night

Edward Munche’s The Scream
Syria5 Edvard Munch's The Scream

Francisco Goya’s The 3rd of May 1808:Syria6 Francisco Goya's The 3rd of May, 1808

Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian Women:Syria7 Paul Gauguin's Tahitian Women on the Beach

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa:Syria8 Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.jpg

Salvadore Dali’s Sleep:Syria8 Salvadore Dali's Sleep.jpg

Finally he sends an affectionate message to the world powers especially those engaged in Geneva Talks, which obviously has fallen on deaf ears so far.

Geneva Bon Voyage:Geneva Bonvoyage.jpg

As the brutal world powers wrangle and wrestle over the fate of his people, failing to agree for peace, Tammam Azzam and many other artists try to touch the conscience of international community, to pay heed that the Syrian plight.

More such series of other art works and artforms from Syria will follow in subsequent blogs.

May the art work heal us all. May peace be with us all.




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