"A Lesson in Drawing"

On the morning when the photo-documentation of the 11,000 Syrian detainees, murdered by the Assad-rule was publicized, Tarek Alghorani nodded that he had personally seen and heard even worse. The photos were all too true. He sent the poem below by his fellow countryman, Nizar Qabbani, for my brother and I to read when commemorating our uncle.

The poem unfolds how the simplest line stems directly from our innermost being. Expression comes from a place deeper than our conscious presence, of which a third great Syrian, the cartoonist Juan Zero, is the perfect interpreter. 

Juan Zero is a minimalist, taking drawing to its core with a few strokes using a slightly wavering line. The texture of his line alone is a tale about the necessity to draw, exposing what is taking place in Syria here and now. Just how intense the line is, is laid bare when paraphrasing the outcry of The Guernica, calling out once again, this time on the situation of all Syrians: Don't forget those still detained.

Juan Zero, From the series Free Syria, May 17, 2012.

By Nizar Qabbani

A Lesson in Drawing

"My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
'… But this is a prison, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?'
And I tell him: 'Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds.'

Juan Zero, From the series Free Syria, April 17, 2012.

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
'Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?'
I tell him, 'Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers.'

Juan Zero, From the series Free Syria 2, October 3, 2013.

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
'But this is a tear, father, not a poem!'
And I tell him:
'When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.'

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping". 

Juan Zero, Don't Forget the Detainees, January 26, 2014.

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