By Prarthana Mitra
Anonymous British artist Banksy, surfaced in New York last month, after a 5-year break with a 70-foot-long mural calling attention to imprisoned Turkish journalist and painter Zehra Doğan.
Doğan was reportedly jailed on March 24, 2017, for her artistic rendition of a photograph of the south-eastern Kurdish town of Nusaybin, which was partly destroyed in 2015 when the Turkish army clashed with Kurdish militants. Zogan’s imprisonment drew outrage and solidarity from all over the world. PEN International even demanded that pending release, Zogan be allowed access to her art supplies and painting materials, in keeping with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Banksy’s mural, located at the famous art corner of Houston Street and Bowery in Manhattan illustrates tally marks doubling as prison cell bars. These symbolically count the days served by Doğan and also features Doğan peering out of one of the cells, along with a call to “Free Zehra Doğan” in the bottom right corner. The grim painting which landed her in jail is projected above Banksy’s mural.Doğan’s artistic rendition of the Kurdish town of Nusaybin which landed her in jail. Credit: Instagram/@jinhazehradogan
From one ‘artivist’ to another
Banky’s first graffiti work in the city since his residency five years ago, was created in collaboration with another graffiti artist Borf, who has also served time in prison for his art. The anonymous British artist, who himself has been the mastermind behind many incendiary and controversial artworks, told the New York Times, “I really feel for her. I’ve painted things much more worthy of a custodial sentence.”
Banksy has also shared his mural with Dogan’s painting on Instagram, tagging the official account of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with the caption, “sentenced to nearly three years in jail for painting a single picture.”
Doğan’s fearless work in the face of censorship
The watercolour by Doğan showcases operations carried out by Turkish security forces against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a part of Erdoğan’s drive to clear PKK militants out of Kurdish cities. It painted a dystopian picture with buildings in rubble, plumes of smoke and military armoury trucks.
In light of Turkish government’s crackdown on dissidents including writers, journalists and intellectuals, Doğan later responded to her sentencing in a now-deleted Tweet that she was being imprisoned for painting “Turkish flags on destroyed buildings.”Doğan’s painting of Hursit Kulter, leader of the Democratic Regions Party. Credit: Instagram/@jinhazehradogan
An erstwhile reporter for Dicle and editor at all-female Kurdish news agency Jinha, Doğan’s works have never shied from portraying the political anarchy in her homeland. Here is her painting of Hursit Kulter, leader of the Democratic Regions Party in the predominantly Kurdish town of Sirnak, who disappeared on May 27, 2016, only to resurface in Iraq, after being subjected to detainment and torture.
Zogan still has 18 months left to serve, for ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius