Friday, February 26, 2010

Lions of Baghdad

(Rene Magritte's painting titled Homesickness, done in 1941. Image source:
During the Iraq invasion/genocide one of the bombs happened to fall on the Baghdad zoo, granting some surviving animals a taste of sudden 'freedom'. A daily carried an article on this incidence of lions in the middle of Baghdad very similar to the cover photograph of Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes (from the Gulf War) but only more surreal due to the city around. The juxtaposing of the beast, the war and the urban area around made up for a very surreal image that till date only existed in Rene Magritte's Homesickness. The atmosphere/subject of a surreal painting had come to be our present state of existence, where freedom is an abstract concept and democracies have become just another tool of subjugation.

(Images from the Graphic Novel "The Pride of Baghdad" by Brian K. Vaughan & Niko Henrichon)
This incidence has inspired two things, a graphic novel called "The Pride of Baghdad" and a recently released Greek play with the name translating as "Lions". Both the mediums, the graphic novel and the play choose to look at concepts of freedom through this incidence, with narration from the lions' point of views as they witness the war, escape to freedom and stroll along the burning streets of war inflicted Baghdad only to die at the hands of American soldiers who appreciate the beauty of the beasts but have to kill them to protect themselves. After the war, Iraq is being rehabilitated, the animals have been domesticated and the zoo itself is being 'Disneylanded' with American Freedom.

(some images from the greek play "Lions" by Vassilis Mavrogeorgiou and Kostas Gakis, with a google translate here and a greek review here)
My own sense of freedom seems to have been stripped off and every day pushes me a little more to get institutionalised within the rush hour jostling, tiffin carrying, law abiding Dilbertian office going crowd for whom living dangerously constitutes giving a print command without a preview...