Cultural Beheading

When the remnants of culture fall between the hands of savages, stones and cultural heritage could be decapitated too

Humam Alsalim / Rami Kakhos

The digital series ‘Cultural Beheading’ is a collaboration project between two young talents living in Damascus, Syria, who employ new technologies in art to express their concerns. An artistic duo: as we know, the collaboration between two good individuals and two good ideas multiplies the result.

Humam Alsalim and Rami Bakhos are two young architects and fresh college graduates, who entered adulthood during the war period that began in 2011, partly under very difficult conditions. Nevertheless while showing great sensitivity, depth and dedication to the events occurring in their country, they remain fully concerned and connected to the universal problems of the world.

Reacting to the acts of IS (Islamic State) prior to the destruction of Palmyra in 2015, calling for subsiding Palmyra from the ongoing war, Humam Alsalim and Rami Bakhos have created digital artworks such as their collection ‘Cultural Beheading’ to highlight the graveness of the destruction that have surrounded Palmyra.

“When the remnants of culture fall between the hands of savages, stones and cultural heritage could be decapitated too”, they say.

Known as the ‘Pearl of the Desert’, the oasis town of Palmyra is situated about 210 kilometres northeast of Damascus and became famous as a stopping point for caravans travelling on the Silk Road. The preserved ancient ruins of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, were not only a symbol of the complexity and wealth of the Syrian identity and history but a heritage that is connected to the whole world. The birth of civilization was in this land.

As it expanded across Iraq and Syria, IS destroyed many archaeological sites, looting them for profit and damaging some to gain attention. IS who has controlled Palmyra since May 2015 razed ancient structures in Palmyra, the destruction targeted various places of worship and ancient historical artefacts.

The systematic destruction of cultural symbols embodying Syrian cultural diversity reveals the true intent of such attacks, which is to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity, its memory and history. IS is killing people and destroying sites, but cannot silence history and will ultimately fail to erase this great culture from the memory of the world. Despite the obstacles and fanaticism, human creativity will prevail, buildings and sites will be rehabilitated, and some will be rebuilt.

Text by Danii Kessjan

Last but not least Humam Alsalim and Rami Bakhos have contributed in 2014 in a workshop at the Faculty of Architecture, Damascus University, addressing the ongoing war and its effects on architecture in the country.

The workshop entitled ‘Pre/Pro/Post Syria Change’ was a collaboration between the Damascus University, the Architecture Sans Frontières, Denmark, and The Royal Academy of Fine Arts – School of Architecture, Copenhagen.

Workshop Description:

14-15 march 2014 – at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts – School of Architecture (

Syria is witnessing, since March 2011 and hitherto, one of the most extreme and complicated conflicts in its modern history.

Bombarding and battling has resulted in huge damage to a lot of residential areas, buildings, infrastructures and public facilities. It is estimated that destruction ranges on average between 10-25% of buildings in Syrian areas with higher proportions in particular cities. More than 2.5 million Syrians fled their homes and over 600,000 registered refugees have fled to neighboring countries, yet the real number of Syrian refugees in these countries is much higher. Physically intact places have also been affected, new sets of human-space scenarios are emerging on personal and urban levels.

How can architects and planners meet all these challenges? What are the needs, and what is the role of societies when dealing with urgent and long-term development?

The goal of this first workshop was both to apprehend how people currently relate to urban spaces as well as to start a discussion about the methods and tools architects could develop to help shaping better conditions in this context. The workshop focused on spatial dimensions of the current everyday life in Syria. We achieve that through development of a variety of cases, from refugee camps, to rural and urban areas, in the view of both emergency and long-term planning. The intention is, through group work and discussions, to develop proposals on future scenarios, strategies and visions in drawing, model and text.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.