Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are part of daily life for kids in Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen. An estimated 4,000 people have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2003, and drones have become embedded into people’s minds, grafittied onto walls, woven into rugs and even appear in their dreams. In a field in North-Western Pakistan is #NotABugSplat, the biggest anti-drone artwork in the world.
The image is the same size as a nine-story building and is clearly visible to drone operators. From thousands of metres above the ground, satellites and cameras pick up the photo of a child’s face, whose family was killed in a drone strike. The military slang ‘bug splat’ refers to the circle drawn by computer programs to estimate collateral damage, a term which has evolved to include the people hit by a strike – the ‘bugs’ themselves.
#NotABugSplat was launched by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, and created by a group of artists from the global art project Inside Out. Started in 2011 by artist JR, giant portraits are pasted onto walls and buildings all over the world, conveying powerful messages about the people and places in which they are located. The project’s ongoing Women Are Heroes installation highlights the dignity of women who occupy crucial roles in society, and find themselves victims of war, street crime, sexual assault, and religious and political extremism. A more recent work has been in Cucúta, Colombia which highlights the plight of Colombian people deported from Venezuela.
The #NotABugSplat image has become an international symbol for protest against drone warfare and has been circulated millions of times on social media, reaching every corner of the globe from Siberia to Patagonia – deconstructing war and its methods in a single image.
Ali Rez and Assam Khalid, Founders, #NotABugSplat