Before Muammar Qaddafi’s departure, artistic expression in Libya had one face: Muammar Qaddafi. Painting meant depicting the ruler’s revolutions on canvas. Singing meant praising Qaddafi through poetic rhythms. Literature meant studying the dictator’s political philosophy in his famous Green Book.
But after a life of forced silence under Qaddafi, Libyans and Libyan artists have a lot to say.
On the ground in Tripoli, Pulitzer grantee Ellen Knickmeyer witnessed a splash of limitless creativity in every corner of Libya’s capital. Weekly Friday art exhibitions, neighborhood break-dancing mobs, and elaborate graffiti drawings splatter through the streets, filling the urban art scene.
Above: Libyan families tour the now graffiti-covered walls of Qaddafi’s looted family mansion. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Libya, 2010.