BRIAN KENNEDY DISCUSSES HIS 2010 TRIP TO SYRIA, WHERE HE VISITED ARTIST-LED PROJECTS AND GALLERIES, AND HIS RECENT EXPERIENCE ATTEMPTING TO BRING SYRIAN ARTISTS TO NORTHERN IRELAND.
I first went to Syria in November 2010 to make a visual study of the Dead Cities. These are the remains of towns and villages from the Eighth and Ninth Centuries: wonderful examples of Byzantine architecture that have remained remarkably intact. They are typical of the country’s rich heritage and offer a real-life understanding of its history. Having remained complete for so long, they are now being subjected to modern warfare; their rich contribution to our knowledge of a past era is being lost forever. Sadly, this is true of many important sites and places of historic interest across this fascinating country, which has always been an important crossroads between East and West, between cultures and religions.
Another site I visited, now also suffering the effects of modern warfare, was the Krac des Chevaliers, considered to be the finest example of a crusader fort. The ancient inner part of the fort, once considered almost impregnable, has already been damaged.
I remember standing shivering in the cold desert night air at the ancient Roman site Palmyra, waiting for the early rays of sunrise to turn the sandstone buildings their famous shade of gold. Palmyra is as far east as the Romans ever built a town or trading centre: they realised the never-ending desert beyond was too vast to be controlled. The Free Syrian Army have now dug into this important site, based in an ancient castle that overlooks these historic remains. [Read more…]