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Banksy debuts a new graffiti mural in one of NYC’s most iconic spaces

By
Howard Halle
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Somehow, some way, Banksy—the world's most famous anonymous practitioner of street art—managed to slip into New York City without notice and left behind a mural he created for the famed Bowery Wall in conjunction with graffiti artist Borf. Typically for artists who court controversy, Banksy and Co.'s subject deals with the repression of artistic expression in Turkey.

The story goes like this: A Turkish artist and journalist named Zehra Dogan was sentenced in March 2017 to two years and ten months in prison. Her crime? Painting a picture of Nusaybin, a Kurdish city near Turkey's border with Syria, which had been attacked by Turkish security forces. Dogan's image shows smoke billowing in the distance, while the foreground depicts a military vehicle that resembles a robotic T. Rex swallowing the town's inhabitants.

For a long time now, the Turkish government has been battling a Kurdish organization call PKK, who lays claim to part of Turkey as Kurdish territory. Additionally, Turkish President/strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been getting nervous over the presence of armed Kurdish forces in Syria who've been helping the U.S. in the war on ISIS. Consequently, he's been ordering military strikes against Kurds on both sides of the Syrian border.

Dogan is herself an ethic Kurd, and her plight is depicted on the Bowery Wall as a series of giant black hashmarks, representing days in the clink, against a white background taking up most of the space. Her portrait is included, picturing her behind bars, with one bar turned into a pencil. The work also includes a large projection of Dogan's painting shining above the wall.

Dogan still has 18 months to serve, but Banksy has wasted no time moving on: He's done another piece of a scurrying rat on the large outdoor clock fronting the old bank at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue—which, like so much of New York these days, is scheduled for demolition.

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