The Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi – who recently told protesters in Libya to clear the streets or face rivers of blood – was once a keen painter.
His art exhibition “The Desert Is Not Silent”, made up of 50 of his own paintings alongside Roman and Libyan antiques, has travelled through the west over the past eight years, stopping off in London’s Hyde Park in 2002.
Gaddafi said the exhibition was designed to show that:
Not only do we buy weapons and sell gas and oil, but we have culture, art and history.
Much of his contribution to Libyan “culture, art and history” is informed by his political interests.
The Challenge (2000) is a painting of an eagle, representing his father, defiantly doing battle with what he calls “neo-crusaders”. Glued to the painting is part of a bomb, dropped by US aircraft on the Gaddafi family home in Tripoli in 1986. Intifada (2001) is a painting of a fist clutching a blood-spattered stone, with news clippings of an Israeli raid glued around it. And War (2001) was shaped by events in the Balkans in the late 1990s.
Not all the paintings are political, though. Paper Tiger (2001) shows Saif’s beloved late cat Fredo against a white background.
Unfortunately, the show’s website is currently “down for maintenance”.