Banksy has teamed up with a coalition of international aid organizations to raise awareness for the conflict in Syria, creating another iteration of his “balloon girl” image. This time, she’s wearing a headscarf, and bordered by a hashtag — #WithSyria, the official slogan of a campaign spearheaded by Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Save the Children.
It’s a well-intentioned move, and it’s making a splash — even John McCain tweeted it — but is a hashtagged piece of stencil art really doing anything good for the Syrian people? And as the Lebanese-German blogger Hisham Ashkar points out, the work aims for cultural sensitivity but misses the mark.
Before they assume the task of saving Syria, and promoting a veiled little girl as an icon for the campaign, at least they should know, that even in conservative Muslim families, girls at the age of Banksy’s painting (4 or 5 years old) are not veiled. Add to it that not all Muslims in Syria are conservative, nor all Syrian are Muslims.
Ultimately, the work’s greatest fault may be that it’s lazy, and not at all subversive. Again, Ashkar goes in.
Finally, as Banksy’s fame grew, we can notice that his work – both the content and how he displayed and used it – tends to be more mainstream, more reconciled with the System, and devoid of depth, trying to capitalize and benefit from his reputation.