Baladk project was back with its 7th edition and transformed the city of Amman once again with its eccentric murals. Baladk continues to build bridges among artists from all walks of life, from the locally and internationally renowned to the ones handling a wall for the first time. This year, the festival brought on 10 local and 6 international artists and crews.

artmejo spoke to 37-year-old French street artist, Don Mateo, who is working with Baladk for the first time who said:

Being part of Badalk festival is an opportunity to discover a country, a culture and especially to meet people. Art facilitates meetings and exchange in this type of case, and I am happy to be able to participate and to come to paint.
Mural by French artist Dire 132 in Istiqlal Street. The Woman of the Bus, Sprays and Acrylic, 16x10m, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan, 2019 -Image courtesy of Baladk.

This time around, the festival took its work beyond just street walls. They opened their doors to the youth, offering them the chance to take part in artistic workshops, panel discussions, mural viewings, and talks given by some contributing artists. These opportunities are aimed towards helping the empowerment of local youth artistically. This strategy also played hand in hand in representing this year’s theme of inclusion. Every wall given to the artists illustrates what they see as inclusive. Yazan Mesmar, one of the local muralists, gave artmejo his outlook on this year’s theme:

For me, inclusion is a very important topic to be discussed, as it is a vital anchor point in art itself and what it represents.

The theme being as extensive as it is, allowed the artists to explore vast options as to what they saw fit for their walls. Though the theme this year led to a majority of portraits, they all represented various kinds of people, and they each have their own unique story as well.

Mural by Colombian graffiti crew Vertigo in Marj El Hamam, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan, 2019. -Image courtesy of Baladk.

Vertigo Graffiti, the Colombian crew of four urban artists, gave us a reflection of humanity in Marj El Hamam, depicting some common ground shared by our two countries. Their mural, called Human Seeds, is a conversation between the Jordanian and Colombian culture. Commenting on the mural, Vertigo told artmejo:

For us, it’s very important to create a monument in order to celebrate the importance of farmers in our countries. So the character is Jordanian, but the surroundings are of Colombia, which is a famous forest called the Valley of Cocora. So we tried to integrate something from humanity that both Colombians and Jordanians share.
Mural by Jordanian artist Yazan Mesmar in Jabal Amman, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan. 2019. -Image courtesy of the artist.

Mesmar gave us our own Jordanian Wonder Woman in Jabal Amman. His mural presents a Bedouin woman dressed in her traditional attire with an overall superhero style, peaking out from a desert sunset background. The artist originally submitted this sketch to artmejo and Al Balad Theater‘s joint online campaign Ana/Anti, a project that called for artists to create works that represent gender-related issues. His empowering sketch was one of eight selected works to be turned into postcards and distributed around the Kingdom on the previous international women’s day.

The concept came about after seeing all the hype for the superhero movies and wishing we had one of our own. One, to be included in the cultural mix of the whole superhero franchises, that represents us.  –Mismar to artmejo
Murals by French artist Don Mateo in Hashmi Al Shamali, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan, 2019. -Image courtesy of the artist.

Mateo brought his unique line art style all the way from Lyon to Hashmi Al Shamali. He believes that the understanding of his work must be universal, encourage reflection, but to also leave room for interpretation and one’s imagination. So for his wall, he created a portrait of a little girl that he had met the previous year, who had just arrived in France with both her mother and brother.

I met them all in a refugee center located in Lyon. In the mural, the little girl looks towards the future, as if she were questioning the world and what her place in it will be.

The second mural the artist left in Hashmi Al Shamali is a homage portrait of Suhaib Attar, a local graffiti artist who grew up in the neighbourhood. 

Mural by German artists Duo Sourati in Hashmi Al Shamali, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan. 2019.

Christina Laube and Mehrdad Zaeri, a German couple also known as Duo Sourati, also brought their vision of Inclusion to Hashmi Al Shamali. Their inspiration behind the mural was found within their own personal experiences, of realizing that one must continue to dream along the way. The woman in the mural represents the lack of privilege females endure in comparison to men, and the artists dedicated their mural Imagine to them.

Mural by Jordanian artist Suhaib Attar in Jabal Lweibdeh with the artist for scale, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan. 2019. -Image courtesy of Baladk.

Some of the murals at Baladk‘s forefront this year are portraits of notably influential people. A painting of Nemat Al Mufti, a Jordanian advocate and activist for women’s rights was created by Suhaib Attar. The mural was put together in Jabal Lweibdeh, the same area Mufti established schools and offered free education to those in need. Pieces like this shed light on the hidden figures we have among us.

Mural by Jordanian artist Miramar  in Jabal Amman, Baladk Festival in Amman, Jordan. 2019.

Meanwhile, Miramar dedicates her wall in Jabal Amman to the late Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. Her idea came together as she was watching interviews of Hadid while working on her sketches for the event, she told artmejo:

The mural alludes the question “Who is She?”, and that’s what I want. I want people to know about her more and know what she has done. Zaha Hadid the type of person that deserves all that recognition and appreciation, especially in this area of the world.

This production of Al Balad Theater’s Baladk edition brought together all these talented artists with the city’s locals. Everyone involved shared confidence and support in Baladk and the continuously growing street art movement. As the festival came to an end, the city gained a bit more life with its revived walls, plenished with new works of art.

The great thing about public art or graffiti is that you don’t need any kind of title or position to enjoy it and be delighted by it. That’s why for us it’s important to continue doing graffiti because it’s the most inclusive form of art.Vertigo

Read more from Amanee Hasan.
Image courtesy indicated in captions.