Whenever a painting gets a headline these days, the story is typically about how much it sold for - as if it were a stock or bond and not a look at someone's soul. So it's good to see newspaper screamers recently telling a different story that has nothing to do with money.

Art story of a second kind

"The murals of Bagdad: the art of protest" was the running head in the Guardian. Reporting this same news, the New York Times recounted it under the caption "Our patience is over: why Iraqis are protesting."But when you think of protest art, a raised fist comes to mind and this is not what you see in the Bagdad murals.

The Guardian rightly described them as "visions for a brighter future." Calling them protest art in the headline doesn't fit the picture spray-painted on the walls of Tahrir Square. What you see are images of wishing, not of warring. What you see is the purest kind of picture-making - its sole motive being a longing behind it.

What you see is not what the press says you get

For example, one of the murals depicts a television set broadcasting the age-old image of three wise monkeys of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" fame.

Clearly all this muralist wants is to watch a TV show that isn't government-controlled; which sounds more like a preference than a protest.

Another mural shows a woman flexing an arm muscle with the message: "Our women are like this" - an assertion that Iraqi women are not the weaker sex. See? These artists are not seeking to overthrow their government, but rather to have less government in their lives.

Revolutionary is not the word for Bagdad street painting

The Guardian reports that security forces have come down with deadly force on Iraquis pushing back, killing some 300 demonstrated in the last two months. Which is what led to the wall paintings. "Artists, many of them young women, have transformed a tunnel leading to Tahrir Square into a revolutionary art gallery."

Sadr City street murals don't reflect the Iraqi's dire situation

But calling a desire for more variety on TV or less controlling of women's lives hardly seems defiant.

The sentiment of a 41-year-old man from Sadr City, cited by the Times, is far from disobedient or in any way rebellious. “Let us be frank," he said, "we are poor people in Sadr City and we need many things: schools, health clinics, jobs...” That said, the muralists' work doesn't reflect people at their wit's end. On the contrary, their wall art appears downright benign - even despite the killings and a United Nations-reported 15,000 wounded.

Nonetheless, the Times said, "The protesters are angry about corruption, unemployment and Iran’s influence." Again, that's not what you see in the street art even despite "decade of economic deprivation." Neither do you see the "history of violent resistance." the Times talks about.

Not in the Bagdad murals you don't.

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