John's Pick
The works listed here are a creative responses to our time by artists, writers and activists.


 On April 28th 1937 a report and a gruesome picture appeared as a leading story in the French news paper L 'humanite' from Paris. It was about the outrageous bombing of the Basque village Guernica by the Nazi bombers.
On April 26th 1937 the holy Basque town was totally destroyed in just three and quarter hours by General Franco's Falangist forces, Italian and German troops with the support of the Lufthwafe - the German air force. It reined more than three thousand incendiary bombs and thousand ponders from their Junkers and Heinkels. The German fighter planes dived low to machine gun the fleeing populace. The town was of no military importance; its destruction was an act of pure terrorism. Thousands perished in the brutal act by the fascist force. 30th April Ce Soir carried on other story with more pictures. The next day Picasso began the preliminary sketches for one of his paintings that was to become one of the most discussed and reproduced twentieth century work of art. The massive painting measured over twenty five feet by eleven feet and called Guernica after the name of the town that was to acquire a lot of political significance. The painting was to become the virtual symbol of artistic protest against atrocities.

When I first saw Guernica, that magnificent work of art, I never in my dream thought one day I have to create some thing in protest against an atrocity much more in magnitude than this that will happen in my own mother land.

That fateful day it all started the Sabharmati Express was set on fire at the Ghodhra station. The fire that ignited the communal hatred spread to the rest of the land of the Mahatma - Gujarath. The Gujarath carnage has shattered many innocent lives. Many parents became insane witnessing their own kith and kin being burned alive. At the end thousands became refugees in their own independent land and humanity covered its face in shame.

It created a wound somewhere within me, in my inner creative space, it would not heal. As a creative person I am a peace loving being. The basis of my creativity is tranquillity and peace. It shattered that morning when I first read the reports. I felt probably the same outrage and shame that Picasso must have felt hearing the Guernica massacre. The initial numbness wore off and a turbulence took place instead. Then it was frantic creative search and my emotions controlled I got to work to create something, to react in my own creative way to this.
I painted a small canvas in the courtyard of a shopping complex in front of hundreds of people. It depicted a few kites torn and aimless in the barren sky. Like those aimless human beings going about asking what mistake they did to deserve this. But this wasn't enough. During a conversation with a friend of mine, the famous Sarod Maestro, Pandit Rajeev Taranath, he asked me if I am familiar with Picasso's Guernica. Yes, indeed I am. "Then why don't you attempt something in that direction?" he suggested. I began to think about it. It rather frightened me. Attempting something in the way Picasso, the greatest master of twentieth century saw is next to impossible. Even as a homage to the great artist it would be difficult. But the artist in me persisted.

I decided to paint in three sections of five feet by six feet making it a fifteen by six canvas. It is not tri-pitch but kind of a triology that has to be viewed together. Having decided on the size I began to make idea sketches and began sourcing images from several points of history. While I went to Picassos work for inspiration I am well aware of making a historical continuity with my work. Like Picasso did. He sourced inspiration and ideas from several European painters works. A major source for this work was Peter Paul Ruben's "The horror of war". While he has adapted ideas from Raphael and Goya he got his pictorial elements from contemporary photographs from news papers and periodicals that was testimonial to many conflict in history that he used as basis for his sketches.
The realistic images in my work was sourced from several human conflicts that readily span our tragic history. My images came from Biafra, Vietnam and other such incidents.

Yusuf Arakal

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