Powerful Art Project Uses Photography To Fight For Change

by Claire Filipek

The poster as seen from the artists’ own drone #NotABugSplat

The project is known by the hashtag “Not A Bug Splat” because the phrase “bug splats” is military slang often used by drone operators to refer to killings. “Bug splats.” Did we just enter the world of the sci-fi novel Ender’s Game?!  It is no wonder that activists sought a new approach to confront this insensitivity and also raise awareness to the horrific reality of civilian casualties due to such drone attacks. 

An artist collective made this large-scale poster to humanize victims of drone strikes in Pakistan. The 90- foot by 60- foot poster, which looks like merely grayscale patterning from the ground, forms the face of a little girl when seen from the sky.  The original picture was taken in North Waziristan, Pakistan on August 23, 2010, when a strike, meant to target a Haqqani network compound, also killed a Bismallah Khan, his wife, and two of their young sons. Three of their children survived and were photographed just after the attack by Pakistani photographer Noor Behram. The strike also destroyed other homes in the area and killed at least nine civilians, all of whom were part of a longstanding Afghan refugee community.

A girl and her two brothers after surviving a drone strike in August 2010  Noor Behram/ Reprieve

The collective behind this art- activism includes artists from France, Pakistan, and the United States, with funding coming from the British charity Reprieve and the Pakistani organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights. One of the artists, who wished to remain anonymous, told Mother Jones, “We were considering whether to put words in the poster, but decided against it, since the photograph already speaks a thousand words,” adding, “Her eyes say everything.” The group also shared that it has been more than 100 days since the last American drone strike in Pakistan. Hopefully they will not need to make any more posters, but if the need is there #NotABugSplat is ready to take action.

Children gather around the installation

Ground view of the gigantic poster of the child victim.

Images Courtesy of  notabugsplat.com and Mother Jones


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