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New weapons against Libya's Gadhafi: paintbrushes

From Michael Holmes, CNN
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His weapon of choice? His brush
  • Political art is springing up in rebel-held areas of Libya
  • Artists are expressing their opposition to Moammar Gadhafi
  • The paintings show Gadhafi as a ruthless dictator
  • "Some people fight. I use a brush," says one artist

Zintan, Libya (CNN) -- In all his years in power, Moammar Gadhafi has never been portrayed as anything but regal in paintings and statues scattered throughout Libya. Until now.

Six months into Libya's war, some artists in rebel strongholds are arming themselves with fresh paint. Their belief? A brush can be as mighty as the Kalashnikov in the fight against the strongman.

"Everybody supports the revolution in some way," says Mohammed Zamoul, formerly a bulldozer driver. "Some people fight, I use the brush."

In Tripoli, a massive mural of Gadhafi remains intact. Zamoul's work is far less flattering.

Gallery: Rebel art in Libya
Blackouts leave Tripoli dark
Rebels on the move in Libya
  • Libyan Conflict
  • Libya
  • Arab Spring
  • Tripoli

His caricatures of Gadhafi sucking on his country's oil reserves, pinned down by a rebel flag and being launched out of Libya on a bomb -- are everywhere around his hometown of Rujban in the country's western mountains.

"Building owners welcome it," he says. "Not one single person said no. I get a lot of support."

Several miles away in the rebel-controlled city of Zintan, Masoud Baji is also using art as weapon. He was a calligrapher before the uprising began in Libya last February. Now, he revels in his new career.

Each of his paintings, he says, expresses Gadhafi's persecution of the Libyan people.

One portrays Gadhafi as a vampire sucking the wealth of the people.

"He has not left anything for them, he kept us illiterate, without education," Baji says. "He kept everything for himself."

Some of the paintings are humorous. Some make strong political commentary. All are new in a nation where freedom of expression was an unknown under Gadhafi.

"Now we can express ourselves freely, thank god," Baji says. "The chains have been lifted. Everyone can express themselves. Even a simple painting about the tyrant, now we can paint. Before the revolution we could not do that, he would arrest and in some cases kill us."

Zamoul and his assistant, calligrapher Abdul Aziz, bear sizzling daytime temperatures to create their latest fresco -- "The Lady of the Sea" beckoning rebel fighters to come and join her in Tripoli.

"What I have inside I can now express and put it on the walls," Zamoul says.

In this particular expression, he has, perhaps, captured the heart of the Libyan rebels, fighting bitterly to make it Tripoli.

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