Dozens of Iraqi artists have been painting murals along miles of concrete blast walls throughout Baghdad. The artwork is an attempt to beautify 12-foot high structures designed to protect buildings from truck bombs and insurgent attacks. The walls have also been the source of intense debate because they divide the city into Sunni and Shiite areas.
Parts of the walls are now adorned with artistic renderings of kings, queens, warriors, ancient writings, and other references to ancient Mesopotamian civilization.
Financed by the American military, Iraq’s Ministry of Works and Social Affairs, and aid organizations, artists are making about $15 a day for their work. They named themselves “Jamaat al-Jidaar,” which means “The Wall Group.”
Avenues for creative expression are difficult to come by for Iraqi artists. Some have resorted to painting renditions of wedding and baby photos of American troops, or have simply fled the country. For the artists still there, the blast walls are a chance at steady income and the opportunity to create art on structures that, once demolished, will be cause for celebration.