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Culture

How artists have reacted to recent surge of terror attacks

A sharp rise in deaths from terrorist attacks in developed countries in the past two years has unsettled the world. Artists have responded - with comfort and provocation.

Terrorism is difficult to define. In Europe and the US, mass shootings are sometimes called acts of terror, sometimes not. It depends on who the perpetrators are and why they did it. In Syria, the government labels both the Islamic State and the Free Syrian Army terrorist groups. The UN admits that it has no universally-accepted definition, and instead works on a "pragmatic approach" to countering the problem.

Journalists are also divided on the terminology. Tarik Kafala, for example, the editor of BBC's Arabic department prefers not to use the word "terrorism." "We know what political violence is," he told The Independent after the deadly 2015 attacks on the office of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. "We know what murder, bombings and shootings are - and we describe them. That's much more revealing, we believe, than using a word like terrorist."

Gedenken an den Anschlag auf Charlie Hebdo in Paris (Getty Images/E. Cabanis)

A demonstration in Toulouse, France, against the assassination of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in January 2015

While journalists and artists debate difficult questions in the wake of tragedies like the November 13 attacks in Paris, artists have often stepped in with immediacy and grace.

If terrorism is something different from murder, it is because of the traumatizing effect it has on survivors. That is precicely where many artists have directed their efforts in the past two years: confronting the terror of terrorism.

From the wandering piano player who dragged his instrument in front of the besieged Bataclan club in Paris to play John Lennon's "Imagine" to the Ivory Coast performers who filmed a music video on the very beach where Al Qaida gunmen killed 22 people - artists around the world have taken an active role in reponding to attacks on civilians.

This picture gallery collects some memorable and lesser-known artistic responses from the past two years.

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