Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, host: Now to Libya. It's another nation in turmoil. But signs are emerging that show people are feeling more secure. That's visible in the graffiti across the capital city. When Moammar Gadhafi ran the country, there were strict rules about what images could be displayed in public. Storefronts had to be painted green. Anti-regime graffiti was met with a brutal response. Now in Tripoli, shopkeepers are repainting many of their stores in the red, black and green stripes of the revolution. As NPR's Jason Beaubien reports, graffiti declaring Libya free is everywhere.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The walls of Tripoli sing the praises of the revolution. And they also give Libyans a chance to vent their pent-up rage towards Moammar Gadhafi. Under a highway underpass, there's a caricature of Gadhafi, his hair sticking out wildly, as he gets flushed down a toilet. Depicting the former dictator as a rat is also an extremely popular theme. It's early evening in the Fashlum neighborhood of Tripoli. Fifteen-year-old Mohamed Mahmoud Fujani has just finished painting a picture of Gadhafi. The ousted leader is clutching his Green Book as he's shot out of a canon. The Green Book was Gadhafi's political manifesto. Libyan students were forced to study it in school. Fujani says even a few weeks ago, before Gadhafi fell, it would have been impossible to make murals like this one.

MOHAMED MAHMOUD FUJANI: If you do something like this you will be die. They will kill you.

BEAUBIEN: Not all of the new paintings are anti-Gadhafi. Some are images of rebel fighters thrusting their AK-47's victoriously above their heads. Some are simple slogans. "We Win or We Die" and "Libya is free." Next to Fujani's Gadhafi picture there's a picture of a wild-eyed Sponge Bob Squarepants waving a rebel flag. Fujani's 18-year-old sister Rihada is painting a mysterious life-size figure with just one eye, sort of a veiled Muslim Cyclops.

RIHADA FUJANI: I'm drawing a woman wearing a hijab, a white hijab, a traditional cloth of Libyan women.

BEAUBIEN: Rihada says her painting represents that women were watching the old repressive regime. She can barely contain herself when she talks about the 17th of February revolution that finally toppled Gadhafi. She calls the uprising a new rose, a beautiful scent, a breeze.

FUJANI: What a lovely freedom breeze came from the 17th February revolution. It's a whole new feeling. I hope we can be better than before. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEAUBIEN: A few blocks away, another group of young artists are gathered on the main street through Fashlum. Mohamed Abou-Setta enthusiastically points to the various images and slogans on the wall behind them.

MOHAMED ABOU-SETTA: Okay. Also as you see in here the map of Libya. This is our flag. Because Gadhafi has stolen everything. This is our flag. This freedom, written here, freedom for Libya.

BEAUBIEN: Another painter is making a portrait of Libyan national hero Omar Muktar, who was executed by the Italians in 1931 for opposing the colonial regime. Roughly 30,000 Libyans died in the uprising against Gadhafi, according to the new health minister. Abou-Setta says this wall is also going to be a monument to the local martyrs.

ABOU-SETTA: We are trying to make here something like, a big board. We wrote all the names here who is dying in this street, Fashlum, you know.

BEAUBIEN: He says the mural is a celebration of the victory over Gadhafi, but it's also a place to remember how much that victory cost. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Tripoli.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: