Banksy, renowned for his satirical and politically charged artworks, was deeply moved by the actions of peace activist Brian Haw, who waged a peaceful protest against the Iraq War outside the Houses of Parliament in London that lasted over a decade.
Brian Haw was a determined and unwavering British protester who passionately advocated for peace. From 2001, he resided in a makeshift peace camp situated in London’s Parliament Square, using it as a platform to voice his dissent against the foreign policies of the United Kingdom and the United States. He went on to become an influential and inspiring emblem of the anti-war movement, particularly in response to the actions of both nations in Afghanistan and Iraq. His symbolic protest quickly garnered global attention and support, with many joining the massive demonstration against the UK’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Despite facing multiple legal challenges and repeated efforts to evict him from the Square, he remained steadfast in his peaceful protest until his demise from lung cancer in 2011.
During his decade-long protest, Brain Haw received numerous messages of support and gifts from people worldwide, including Banksy himself. Banksy gifted his iconic artwork, “CND Soldiers,” to Haw’s protest line in 2005 and 2006. The artwork depicts two soldiers painted in Banksy’s signature black and white stencil style, with one holding a machine gun while the other paints a peace symbol in red on a monochromatic background. The artwork was created to oppose Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war and was first painted in London.
Banksy also created another powerful artwork for the peace camp titled “Petrolhead,” which features a stick figure holding a petrol pump nozzle to his head, symbolising the destructive impact of oil and gas on society. The artwork was first seen in 2003 at Banksy’s Santa Ghetto pop-up on London’s Oxford Street.
Image copyright Banksy (Wall and Piece Book Image pg 194)
These two placards were displayed along with many others that once stretched the entire length of Parliament Square. The pieces were taken by the police in 2006, which Haw tried tirelessly to get back but to no joy.
Banksy also joined in with the protest of the Iraq war and designed placards during a protest against the Iraq War in 2003. One such placard is “Bomb Love Girl / Bomb Hugger Girl.” It portrays a young girl lovingly embracing a bomb to reflect on the impact of war and the role of love in overcoming destruction. The black and white stencil first appeared in east London in 2001, in Bristol, and then in Brighton in 2003. Most placards were discarded after the protest, but one was sold in 2017 for £10,000 by Rowleys in Suffolk.
Banksy NO, Bomb Love, Anti War Placard. Image © Rowleys
Amidst the UK protests against the Iraq invasion, Banksy unveiled a screen print titled ‘Bomb Love / Bomb Hugger’ featuring a vibrant pink backdrop reminiscent of bubble gum. The prints were released through Pictures on Walls, Banksy’s UK-based printing house. Read more here.
“I like to think I have the guts to stand up anonymously in a Western democracy and call for things no one else believes in – like peace and justice and freedom.”
Banksy (Wall and Piece Book pg 24-25)
Peace activist Brian Haw gained recognition as a source of inspiration in Banksy’s book “Wall and Piece” on page 206. To further acknowledge his efforts, Banksy gifted him a book in 2005 with a handwritten message. Read more here.
Thanks for being the best inspiration in London
When Brian Haw passed away in 2011, Banksy paid him a heartfelt tribute on his website with a moving photo of Haw framed by delicate flowers and a halo with a hand-drawn angel-winged loudspeaker hovering above him. The tribute stands as a beautiful and fitting tribute to Brian Haw’s unwavering commitment to peace and his remarkable contribution to society.
Image copyright Banksy 2011
The story of Brian Haw serves as a powerful reminder of the crucial role we play in standing up for our beliefs and using our voices to create a better world. Brian Haw’s unwavering commitment to promoting peace and raising awareness of the devastating effects of war is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the human soul. Despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles, Brian Haw persevered and remained resolute in his mission to stop the killing of innocent civilians and children and bring peace.
Haw’s unwavering spirit and unrelenting efforts earned him the Most Inspiring Political Figure title at the 2007 Channel 4 Political Awards, and his legacy of peace and determination continues to inspire people worldwide.