Artistic encounters
in war and violent conflict

Diala Brisly

Diala Brisly Visual Artist

Diala Brisly is a Syrian artist whose artistic practice spans a variety of media, including animation, painting, conceptual art, illustration, comic books and murals. Recurring themes in her work are social justice, freedom, and a desire to give a voice to children.

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Diala Brisly
France / Syria
Visual Artist

The artist

Diala began as a cartoonist at the Syrian-based Spacetoon channel in 2001, where she began as a layout artist for the fledgling cartoon series. Since then, her career has grown to include a variety of media and capacities, including layout design, animation, concept art, painting, comic books, and character design. Her work has consistently explored themes about social justice, freedom for the Syrian people, and a desire in particular to give a voice to children, who are among the most voiceless and most vulnerable groups targeted in Syria’s current turmoil.

Her current focus illuminates the educational situation for Syrian children, and refugees in general. In 2014, she launched an initiative to make murals in the refugee camps and create alternative education centres between Lebanon and Turkey to encourage children to return to school after many absent years due to war. At the same time, she began hosting art workshops for children and adults to help them express feelings and ideas about the conflict. Recently, her own work has begun exploring themes of well-being and psychological issues, like post trauma, inspired by her own experience and enquiries into this topic.


Selected works

Life Jacket Series

Life Jacket Series is a work that highlights the many consequences of war. The first image is entitled, ‘It’s a baby girl’, and features a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. Starting with this striking image, Diala moves through the series to highlight that ‘drowning in the middle of the sea’ is a metaphor that helps us ask, “Who else needs a life jacket?’

Life Jacket Series is a series of work that highlights the many consequences of war

The illustration ‘Under shelling’ depicts a mother with her son walking through war rubble. Though on land, they also need life jackets. ‘Light jacket’ is about a Syrian girl who escapes death, goes years without education, and now sells chocolate on the streets of Beirut to survive. She, too, needs a life jacket. ‘Get me out of here’ is about a young woman who came to Lebanon seeking safety but instead is kidnapped and forced into prostitution. Diala reminds us that we don’t need to be ‘dangerously tossed’ in the middle of the sea to need attention.

Survival Mode

Survival Mode evolved out of Diala's work with traumatized children and includes art workshops as way for children to express and reconnect with themselves. Art serves as a parallel language for children who cannot find the words to describe their feelings. "Sometimes I ask them to draw themselves, how they see themselves and what kind of emotions they carry inside of them", Diala says. Through this work she realized that she also had a strong urge to express herself and describe the conflict inside of her as she responded to her own turmoil in going through war, displacement and upheaval.

The concept of the series is to focus on the shattered memories and replacements, and to build new memories, while trying to keep one's identity. This individual experience is part of many people's experiences. "Although we are far away, safe and feeling privileged to survive and be alive, there is still a constant struggle to find peace inside, as we witness the collapse that is happening in Syria and inside each one us", Diala says.

Leave us

“When I was in Syria, I experienced frustration at not having the freedom of expressing many issues by art, most of my work was commercial or for TV shows. In 2011, when the uprising started, I didn’t start immediately to use art to support the revolution, I prioritised doing things on the ground related to protests and preparing field hospitals. In 2012, as the violence was growing more and more, I finally had the urge to draw what was happening. In 2012 I drew my first illustration. It was about a massacre that happened in Daraa in southern Syria, when I saw a photo of a boy who lost his limbs in an explosion. This was the starting point for the series called Leave us.”

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