Arab Youth and Catharsis in Graffiti and Street Art

لبلد #سوريا
المكان #درعاالبلد الأربعين
التاريخ : الــيــوم 5 تشرين ثاني 2013
Country #Syria
Location #Daraa Al-Balad Al-Arbaeen
Date : 5 November 2013 — with Billy Marking Abu Watan.

Rather than being limited to the cold dryness of documented imagery, like what is seen in the photographic media, the stunning art forms of graffiti and street art not only capture the truth of situations in any given environment, but also beautify the space and give it a unique fresh flavor, reflecting the energies of those who create it and impacting those who see it.

Of course art/graffiti comes with the territory of urbanized youth, who are often overlooked and undervalued. Just like those who the medium is often associated with, wrongly or rightly – it is also severely undervalued for its many benefits in the context of art therapy; and as a public art medium, it has traditionally been greatly overlooked at the detriment of our youth, communities and societies.

This unfounded prejudice is unlike many other art forms which are used in the context of art therapy, attracting strong support for their proven effectiveness. By its nature, graffiti and street art are an aspect of the living, breathing energy of any given environment, with unique expression taking form as a direct response to the given flavor of that environment and what is going down in it. With graffiti, you can read the walls and sometimes we don’t want to know what they say.

Unfortunately this same prejudice and lack of values often transfers into the provision of any given service or support young people may engage in and not just art therapy programs.
This medium, traditionally avoided as a therapeutic process by professionals and organisations for being misunderstood, is often only used due to a passionate individual worker who values and comprehends the importance of the therapeutic impacts it has.
Of course, just like any other lack of investment, there has been a limited return, and we are only just starting to really discover how beneficial graff and street art really are to our personal and societal wellbeing. While living in close proximity within our highly built up urban environments, let alone the benefits when living under the stress of war or recovery from conflicts, we have learned that graffiti and street art are a welcome addition to the walls around us.

I am talking about young people because they are our future and we as societies and people who make up our societies neglect them, we don’t listen to them, we shut out their voices, their opinions, their ambitions, their hope, their dreams and we place on them the burdens of our own. We would never admit this of course, not as individuals and certainly not as societies.
To a degree, it is an essential experience and burden of youth. I think most adults are big enough to admit we don’t know everything and we can only gain in progress and discovery by listening to and supporting our young people – who are our future.
Let us not miss out on what they have to say.

لبلد #سوريا
المكان #درعاالبلد
التاريخ : الــيــوم 5 تشرين ثاني 2013
Country #Syria
Location #Daraa Al-Balad
Date : Today – 5 November 2013 — with Crazy-h Abu Watan and Billy Marking Abu Watan.

Lebanon has demonstrated some of these benefits with its street showcase and has taken the graff world by storm with its local talent, fast becoming the hot place to paint in the region and attracting a wide variety of visiting artist.
Artists by nature are able to look past first impressions to see the converging aspects of what really is, with established locals using the strength of this ability to transform Beirut, giving everyone a taste of something fresh and appealing – no matter who may be enjoying it. Some of the benefits I have noticed over time is the consistently evolving, dynamic, positive impacts in general, but particularly with the young people engaged in graff & street art in Lebanon- who are developing their skills and looking up to the local accomplished artists to keep thm sharp. The owner of this blog has published various projects which have engaged a wide variety of young people and these mediums, and there have been a number of exhibitions showcasing young established talent, all who were well received.

When I first came across Mahmoud just a few months ago, he was creating beautiful, striking photographs for his photography page, which captures the day to day life of those caught up in the Syrian war. He is highly talented in a number of artistic disciplines and has recently been doing more graff with others around their city, which is often under attack of some form. In many ways it is like a reclaiming of the life of the city, paint on the broken walls is something to look at fondly, with accomplishment and pride.

Much of his photographic work is documenting the realities in Syria as he encounters them and his images are powerful. Although this medium provides such a striking capture of the reality, it is a problem when it comes to the trauma aspect, surviving and being exposed to these events and realities first hand is one thing, then going over the images to select, edit and publish the work is another. Being an artist and attempting to represent the realities of the city he lives in, while also remaining open to critique, is simply a phenomenal insight into the strength of his young character; although the repeated imagery cannot but increase the compounding fatigue of war.

البلد #سوريا
المكان #درعا #المخيم
التاريخ الــيــوم 24 – أيلول 2013
Country #Syria

You can imagine how happy I was to see Mahmoud and his mate painting and being interviewed for a Syrian TV article. They are clearly enjoying painting and appear to have a whole new lease of life exploring the recent ruins, photographing their adventures and now painting the walls of their stomping ground.
I look forward to witnessing the continual evolution of these art mediums and enjoying the positive impacts it keeps giving so graciously to all who take the time to appreciate the offering.

For more information:

Mahmoud’s photography page:

Video (about Mahmoud’s graffiti and his friends):

About Ms. Andrea

Although I enjoy writing, I have only recently given myself permission to explore it for fun. I am based in Australia and I am deeply passionate and driven about social justice, community development and the empowerment principle. I am employed as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Harm Reductionist, Street Based Youth Worker, and a Professor in higher education.

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11 Responses to Arab Youth and Catharsis in Graffiti and Street Art

  1. Selena November 21, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Beautiful article indeed and nice work Mahmoud and friends!

  2. Laurent Bassil November 21, 2013 at 8:07 am #


    art therapy is an effective tool/technique to overcome hatred, to channel war traumas, and build bridges across differences.

  3. Karim Chalfoun November 21, 2013 at 8:21 am #


    love your art! and thank you Ms. Andrea for such a delightful post to read!

  4. Charafeddine November 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Love it !!

    and wishing all the best to those artists!

  5. Katia C. November 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Great article Ms. Andrea! I truly believe in the benefits of art therapy through street arts, as well as graphic arts and theater + music.

    Theater for example Zeina Daccache’s work in prisons!

  6. Maria-Thérésa November 22, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Quel courage ces jeunes ont!

    merci de partager leurs oeuvres et de témoigner de leur bravoure et créativité face à la guerre!

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