Issam Kourbaj, Imploded, burnt, turned to ash, 2021

This performance by the Syrian-born and Cambridge-based artist Issam Kourbaj , which took place at the Howard Theatre, Downing College, Cambridge on 15 March 2021, marks the tenth anniversary of the Syrian uprising. Kourbaj describes the project thus:

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Syrian uprising, which was sparked by teenage graffiti in March 2011, this drawing performance will pay homage to those young people who dared to speak their mind, the masses who protested publicly, as well as the many Syrian eyes that were, in the last ten years, burnt and brutally closed forever. I will draw fragments of Arabic words and eye idols on a large surface in layers, repeating and obscuring them beyond all legibility and recognition. It will become a palimpsest of these two elements, the first is inspired by the graffiti that was quickly erased even before it was completed, and the second is based on three Syrian eye idols from the collections of The Fitzwilliam Museum, made of alabaster and dating to around 3200 BC, excavated at Tell Brak, Syria, in a building now called the Eye Temple. I will then burn the final drawing and place the remaining ash in a glass box. Ideally, this will be exhibited in a sacred space to memorialise every victim of the last decade, while also being dedicated to all Syrians lost, displaced and still suffering from this ongoing crisis. Towards the end of the performance, the viewer will hear words written by myself, set to music by renowned composer Richard Causton (Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge) and sung by soprano Jessica Summers.