The photograph of the ‘Napalm Girl’ clicked during the Vietnam war by Nick Ut or that of a vulture and child by Kevin Carter are among the images which have literally brought the world to its knees. These powerful images are now being used by Turkish artist Ugur Gallenkus to show the stark contrast between the two worlds we live in by combining two images — one of the Western world and the other of the destructive Middle East.
Ugur Gallenkus lives in Istanbul and has been doing photomontages for the past 4-5 years as a hobby. Describing himself as “one of the kinds politicians don’t like”, Gallenkus told indianexpress.com that he did his first artwork inspired from the refugees who fled the Syrian war and went to Europe for peace but drowned in the Aegean Sea.
“Four million refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria live in Turkey. Europe is where they all want to reach. Why? Some of the reasons are war, bad administration, insecurity and anxiety about the future,” Gallenkus said.
In a series of images, Gallenkus attempts to show the parallel universe that exists in the same society. In one of his artworks, one side of the split image shows a lavish bathroom with a fancy chandelier while the other side has a father bathing his two children in the remnants of a bathroom which was destroyed during the war. In the foreground, there is debris all around with hollowed-out buildings in the background, bringing out the inherent dichotomy.
The Syrian war has left millions homeless and killed thousands of others have left the world in utter disappointment and anguish. The protests against the Bashar al-Assad government since March 2011 made the world witness, possibly the greatest debacle of the 21st century.
The world has lived for centuries in wars, oppression and hunger due to different reasons, Gallenkus says, adding that as an artist, he believes that art is the master of all languages. For long, art has been used to create awareness that helps in awakening the communities. Even though he doesn’t understand Hindi or Urdu, Gallenkus loves watching Aamir Khan movies and listening to Fateh Ali Khan’s songs as art needs no language. “The solution of the crisis may be in a thousand words but for a work of visual art, you don’t need to know the language,” he said.
Through his work, Gallenkus wants to show the western world that there is a world other than them. “They could actually build the places they wanted to go to in the Middle East which will have democracy, peace, just order and prosperity,” he added.
Gallankus’ work shows that it is the children who have paid the highest price for what they have absolutely no responsibility for. After seven years of war in Syria, 8.6 million children are now in dire need of assistance, up from about half a million after the first year of the nearly 6 million children are displaced or living as refugees, and about 2.5 million are out of school, AP reported.
“I live in Turkey, which happens to be located next door to one of the most dangerous regions in the modern world. Because of its position between the East and the West, it is a country where the conflicts of both regions are seen,” the artist said.
The collage is quite similar to the haunting images of four-year-old Omran which had also reverberated around the world in 2016. The photo shows Omran sitting in an ambulance after the attack, his face, arms and legs caked in blood and dust.
Gallenkus has been getting positive messages from all over the world ever since his work went viral on social media with thousands of people expressing their anger, sorrow, shock and disgust at the current scenario in the Middle-East.
The Turkish artist will continue to do this kind of work as he believes in Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s promise of “peace at home, peace in the world” love. Gallenkus wishes for a world of peace.