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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 19:15 GMT
Baghdad's blast wall art
By Roger Hearing
BBC News, Baghdad

Baghdad street with decorated blast walls
Art finds a place amid a scarred city's sandbags and concrete
In a dull Baghdad world of concrete and razor-wire, chicanes and blast barriers, a little colour has just re-appeared.

Every official building or media base these days has a frontage of four-metre (13ft) high concrete walls to protect against bombs and mortars, but Iraqis have begun to see the grey expanse as a public canvas.

There is of course graffiti, but mostly great swirling apolitical exuberance - everything from retro-Chagall to prog-rock album-cover teenage fantasies.

Outside the French embassy there is a profusion of images - wild horses, flying carpets, impossible towers and minarets, as well as a simple scene of an Iraqi farmer in a tractor coming back to his wife and children at the close of the day.

On almost every section there is a dove - the symbol of a peace Iraqis do not yet know.

Saddam's many guises

As long as I have been coming here, there has been plenty of public art. In the past, however, there was one subject - Saddam Hussein.

Saddam in many guises - as Western playboy, as Arab sheikh, even on one occasion as a Kremlin communist complete with fur hat, but always Saddam, displayed on huge hoardings around the city squares.

And always depicted in the heroic socialist-realism style dictators seem to favour.

They have all gone of course, and with them any feeling of artistic restriction, apparently.

All is possible now it seems - even if the blast walls that have become the artists' gallery are things most Iraqis would sooner be without.

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