Followers of the work of Banksy and the global street art world would hardly imagine the elusive artist ever taking part in the ongoing Houston Bowery Wall initiative. Yet, on the 15th of March, only two days after his time chasing rat appeared on the busy intersection of Union Square (seen below), the world learned that Bristol’s finest had been added to the list of artists that have painted the wall famous since Keith Haring painted it first in the 70s.
Taking his turn at one of the most highly regarded mural walls in the United States, Banksy (or Borf on his behalf, as mentioned in some media) decided to paint an explicit, politically charged piece. With almost no references to his previous or recognizable work, without any hidden messages or beating around the bush, he revealed the new piece on his official Instagram:
The mural includes 273 hashmarks indicating the approaching 1st anniversary of the imprisonment of Zehra Doğan, a Kurdish artist and journalist, who was sentenced to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days for painting her version of an actual photograph of what was left of the Kurdish city of Nusaybin after the Turkish military assault in 2016. Even though it the Turkish army that hung their flag on the ruins left behind, it was explained by saying – “by painting the Turkish flag on the destroyed walls of Nusaybin, the propaganda of the (terrorist) organisation was made.” The portrait of the Doğan was stenciled behind one of the marks, with one of the bars being replaced with a pencil, a symbol her journalist profession. The simple yet striking and effective mural is accompanied by two slide show images above it, showing the original photo and the painting that caused her imprisonment.
By creating such clear and strong statement, in the heart of NYC, not long after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized the US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, Banksy is once again using his reputation and influence to highlight sensitive issues, often neglected by mass media.