As the drumbeat of war starts to build toward a possible U.S.-led strike in Syria, it is important to remember the transformative power of artistic expression. Artists can and should create challenging, new interpretations of reality to transcend old methods and ideas. Of course art alone cannot end political conflict or war, but creative works do have the power to inspire, to humanize and to broaden the imagination.
Here are 10 great, diverse examples of inspiring anti-war art.
1. Peace (Iconic Symbol)
The classic circle with three lines is the globally recognized symbol for peace, and is among the most enduring and recognizable pieces of protest art, ever. It was designed in 1958 by British artist Gerald Holtom who was working to design a symbol for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). The symbol is simplified form of two semaphore letters (used to send information between ships) The letters were “N” and “D”, for “nuclear disarmament.”
The symbol quickly spread as the emblem for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain and migrated to the United States in the 60s as a symbol for the peace movement.
2. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On? (Music)
From Bob Dylan’s poetry to the inspiring chant music of Chilean group Inti-Illimani, powerful political music can change the world. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” comes out of the massive public outcry against the Vietnam war in the 1970s. Gaye highlights the the irony of domestic social conditions surrounding war, which include including urban decay, police brutality, racism, and poverty.
3. Banksy (Graffiti)
4. Grave Of The Fireflies (Animated Film)
“Grave of the Fireflies” is a deeply powerful 90-minute story of two orphans fighting for survival in World War II Japan after the firebombing of Kyoto. It’s an anime released in 1988, and can beviewed in full with English dubbing. I recommend watching, but be prepared to shed a few tears.
5. Sir No Sir! (Documentary)
6. War Child (Music)
Incredible artists like The STOP Movement, Mos Def, Dead Prez, The Coup, Immortal Technique, and Brother Ali are among the many artists who partake in hip hop’s tradition of partaking in politics.The autobiographical song “Warchild” is the work of Emmanual Jay, who managed to grew up in a world of violence upon spending his childhoos in the war-torn Sudan.
The song “Warchild” is pure poetry over a gripping beat with ominous African vocal melody. It reminds us of the tens of thousands of innocent young lives affected by war.
7. Not Our Children – Not Their Children (Sketch Drawing)
Artist and activist, Mark Vallen created this chilling pencil and paper piece “Not Our Children – Not Their Children” in 2003 at the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The disturbing drawing has been given feature spots in art exhibits and books . It reminds of us the ugliness of war and humanizes the “other” by emphasizing theconcern people should have for “their children” as well.
8. Stills Of Protest (Photography)
Decades after that iconic image of Vietnam War protester Jan Rose Kasmir offering a flower to bayonet wielding soldiers, governments have have not realized the folly and evil inherent in fighting wars.
9. Knotted Gun (Sculpture)
The Non-Violence Project’s logo features a the knotted gun, created by the Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd as a memorial tribute to John Lennon. Since then, three bronze sculptural adaptions of this knotted gun have been created.One displayed at the United Nations headquarters. The gun has become an international symbol of the non-violence movement and of global peace. Several replicas exist around the world.
10. Make Art Not War (Design & Typography)
This awesome poster has become fairly unbiqitous. Whether the message is to make art, make love, or make cupcakes, the point is to use our creative abilities to engage in productive activities. We should focus on creating rather than destroying.