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SYRIA

Italian restorers fix Palmyra artefacts destroyed by Isis

Sculptures salvaged from the national museum in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra after it was destroyed by the Islamic extremist group, Isis, in 2015, are being restored in Italy.

Italian restorers fix Palmyra artefacts destroyed by Isis
The busts will be returned to Syria towards the end of February. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

After a complex cross-border mission, the two funerary busts are now temporarily in the hands of restorers in Rome.

Both artefacts, from the 2nd-3rd century AD, were damaged by hammer blows by Isis militants as they captured the city in May 2015.

The museum’s chief, 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, was beheaded by the extremists as he tried to protect the site’s treasures in August of that year.

The two busts, a male and a female, were brought to Rome as part of an agreement between Incontro di Civiltà (Meeting of Civilisations) and the Directorate of Antiquities in Damascus.

The female bust is being restored fragment by fragment, while sophisticated 3D print will help restore the aristocratic features of the male one. Until recently, they were on display at an exhibition at the Colosseum.

The artefacts will be returned to Damascus later this month, where they will be stored in the vaults of Syria’s central bank.

“In my memory, there hasn’t been another case where sculptures which escaped a theatre of war have been restored in another country and then returned. It’s a small miracle,” said Francesco Rutelli, the president of Incontro di Civiltà.

Isis controlled the city until March 2016, when it was forced out by pro-Syrian government forces. But the group managed to recapture the city in December. 

FILM

Syrian war documentary wins top Venice prizes

A film that follows two friends through four nightmarish years of the Syrian civil war has lifted some of the top prizes at the Venice film festival, which ends Saturday.

Syrian war documentary wins top Venice prizes
The Venice film festival ends on Saturday. Photo: Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
“Still Recording”, a documentary by Ghiath Ayoub and Saeed Al Batal, records what happened to two idealistic art students after they were swept up in the fervour of the Syrian revolution. It picked up two awards at Venice Critics' Week.
 
Friends Saeed and Milad leave Damascus and go to Douma in 2011, a suburb under rebel control, to set up a radio station and recording studio. There they struggle to keep a flicker of hope and creativity alive as they endure fighting, siege and famine.
 
Ayoub and Al Batal, who shot 500 hours of footage, told AFP that with so little reporting coming out of Syria it was important to bear witness.
 
“We started doing this because there wasn't, and still isn't, an efficient working media in Syria because it's not allowed to enter and if it is, it's under the control of the regime,” said Al Batal.
 
“Art is nothing if it is not resistance, even if there isn't revolution… it is resistance against a huge amount of emotions you have got inside you. Emotions need to come out and expressing them through art can do that.”
 
The win comes as the Syrian regime and its Russian allies are preparing to launch an assault on Idlib, the northern province that is the last major stronghold of the rebel and jihadist groups which have been trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad for the past seven years.
 
Al Batal said the situation in Syria “is more dangerous than ever now” because the Russian military are more ruthless than Assad's badly trained soldiers.
 
“They know where to hit, and how to hit hard,” said Al Batal, who said the “media army behind them” was the same.