Je suis France

The ‘controversial’ street art that earned Combo a beating.
On Monday I wrote about the responsibility of artists to tell the truth. In the United States, we are reasonably safe from persecution, but that isn’t the case in France. Last month 17 people were assassinated and 22 wounded in a series of terroristic attacks that were putatively in response to cartoons critical of the prophet Muhammad.  
Compared to the staff of Charlie Hebdo, the street artist known as Combo got off easy. Le Monde reports that four young toughs asked the artist to remove an offensive piece of art last weekend. He refused and they beat him up.  Combo is a big fellow who learned boxing essentials from a younger brother, but he suffered a dislocated shoulder and other injuries sufficient to put his right arm in a sling—in essence, they were trying to silence his drawing hand.

On the other hand, the ‘offensive art’ he posted on a Paris street is, by our lights, soothing and safe. It is a riff on that ubiquitous Coexist bumper sticker that is plastered on Priuses all over America. His art consisted of a picture of himself dressed in a djellaba on a wall alongside the Coexist image.

Part of Combo’s installation in Chernobyl.
Born in Amiens to a Lebanese Christian father and a Muslim Moroccan mother, Combo is the eldest in a family of four boys, of whom the younger have become more religious. “At first I thought I was French, but then I quickly realized that I was Arab. Now, I am told that I am a Muslim. This is the French disintegration,” he added.
Part of Combo’s installation for the 2014 French election.
When Combo decided to leave for Beirut, his friends said, “You are a fool! What are you going to do, jihad?”

“I’m going to make jihad-art on the walls of Beirut,” he answered. “Less of Hamas, more of hummus.”

Combo refuses to speculate on the identity of those who assaulted him. “That would only add fuel to the fire. Of course I’m scared. But I said I was Charlie, and I still am.” And then he smiled. “Too bad for them that I am left-handed.”

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.
Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.