art of resistance, Syria

Paintings By Boutros Al-Maari.

boutros//all images © Boutros Al-Maari//

Boutros Al-Maari was born in Damascus in 1968. He has held several solo exhibitions in Paris and Damascus, and participated in a large number of group exhibitions in Damascus, Beirut, Alexandria, Hanover and Paris. Al-Maari currently lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.

Through his paintings he transmits a feeling of the contemporary and the traditional, all on the same canvas. In a way, his paintings are an exaggerated drawings of the typical characters from the Syrian daily life, with a twist of magic in them.

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For more on Al-Maari and his work, and many other great Syrian artists – follow the page Syria.Art on Facebook.

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art of resistance, Syria

Safwan Dahoul | What Dreams Are Made Of.

Safwan_Dahoul_Dream_11_2016/art © Safwan Dahoul, Dream 11/

Safwan Dahoul is a Syrian painter, born in Hama in 1961. He is one of the many Syrian artists who left their country and relocated to Dubai.

His body of art is informed and inspired by his personal emotions and life, and particularly by the experience of displacement and diaspora and the war in Syria.

His evocative paintings all share the title Dream, as a reference to the dreamlike mental state that characterises Dahoul’s present situation.

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To find out more about Dahoul and his work, visit the Ayyam GalleryDahoul’s work can be found at Ayyam Gallery, Beirut, Damascus, Dubai, London and Jeddah.

//all art © Safwan Dahoul//

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art of resistance, Syria

Remembering Louay Kayali: Life Is On The Streets.

the match seller/The Match Seller by Louay Kayali/

Louay Kayali was a Syrian modern artist, a brilliant painter born in Aleppo in 1934. He began painting at the age of eleven and held his first solo exhibition when he was eighteen.

Kayali died in 1978, from burns incurred from his bed catching fire, reportedly from a cigarette (he suffered from depression, leaving many to think it was suicide).

Kayali studied art at the Accademia di Belle Arti, and met Syrian artist Wahbi Al-Hariri there – they would remain friends for the rest of Kayali’s life (Al-Hariri became his mentor). Later on, Fateh Moudarress (also mentored by Al-Hariri) and Kayali represented Syrian modern art at the Venice Biennial Fair.

laundrette/The Laundrette/

Kayali graduated in Rome in 1961 and returned to Syria where he started his career as a fine arts professor at Damascus University, where Fateh Moudarres also taught.

Kayali’s artwork changed during his life, he was inspired by various things and made beautiful paintings of still nature and village landscapes, but what moves me deeply when it comes to his work are his painting of “ordinary” people, the way he captured life on the streets.

woman-selling-figs/Woman Selling Figs/

When Kayali made his atrwork about the people around him, people we pass by every day, people that are not often thought of as important, as the ones that deserve attention – that is when his art became so powerful, it became a statement of resistance, a portrait of struggle that cannot and should not be unseen.

His ways of capturing the psychological condition of the people, the harshness of life in the way they hold their bodies, the way they look at you – it is a true skill, it is a way of seeing and understanding people, not just trying to paint them.

In that sense, his portraits of people in the streets of Syria, the relationships he made, can be compared to those of Vincent Van Gogh and the miners he lived with and painted.

fisherman in arwad/Fisherman in Arwad/

Kayali is also famous for capturing the agony and the decampment of Palestinians in his paintings, particularly during the 1967 war.

His painting Then What shows Palestinian refugees, barefoot and disoriented, and it remained one of his most powerful works. You can see the misery, you can feel the despair.

kayai so what/Then What/

In his work, Kayali did not adhere to the idyllic image of national heroes, and his shift towards “everyday” people did not go without criticism. After all of the turmoils and attacks, in 1977 he decided to leave for Italy, he sold his house and left Syria, dreaming that he would work on his art in Rome, in a more peaceful atmosphere.

But he couldn’t do that and he returned to Aleppo, to live in solitude. He died in solitude, but in his work all of the connections he made remain visible.

He cared about people deeply. He was a keen observer of life, a mad person, a genious, a humanist not well understood in a world that is very often so far from humanistic values.

the bread maker/The Bread Maker/

He made sure we remember and notice the bread makers, fishermen, ice cream sellers, corn sellers, match sellers, bead sellers, fig sellers, socks sellers, flower boys, flute players, shoe-shine boys, oud players, cleaning ladies, beggars, refugees, single mothers….

That is why we should remember Louay Kayali.

//all paintings by Louay Kayali//

• • •

Previous Remembering… sessions:

Remembering Ronit Elkabetz: A Thing Of Soul And Beauty

Remembering Leila Alaoui: The Moroccans

Remembering Mahdi ‘Amel: The Importance of Resistance

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art of resistance, Syria

Gylan Safadi: Paint It Black.

safadi3/artwork © Gylan Safadi/

Gylan Safadi is a Syrian artist, born in Soueida in 1977.  He is a graduate of Damascus University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and has lived and worked in Syria until couple of years ago, when he moved to Lebanon.

Prior to 2012, Safadi’s work was characterized by strong colors, but that changed with the escalating war and  horror in Syria. As he put it one of his interviews, he just couldn’t paint in colors anymore.

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Painting in black seemed real, it seemed true to the way things were. Painting became Safadi’s way to salvage the memories of faces, friends, dreams, and experiences amidst the destruction of war in Syria.

“All that surrounds me is colorless, only scorched memories come to me and I try to gather their shreds on my canvas before they are blown away”, Safadi explained in an interview with Skeyes.

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I find these images so powerful, a real testimony of pain, despair, uncertainty. It shows how war looks like, how it feels, and it just might be a little less easy for us to turn our heads away from this.

safadi/all images © Gylan Safadi/

You can find out more about Safadi and find more of his work on his Facebook page.

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art of resistance, Sudan

Salahi’s Garden & What’s Inevitable.

el_salahi/photo: Behind the Mask 1 by El-Salahi © Haupt & Binder/

Ibrahim El-Salahi is a Sudanese artist, an important figure in African and Arab modernism. El-Salahi is considered a pioneer in Sudanese art and was a member of the Khartoum School that was founded by Osman Waqialla.

Hassan Musa writes about El-Salahi (he first heard stories about him when he was a teenage boy): “I was fascinated by the idea that an ordinary Muslim man could live as an artist, because in my imagination they were unreal creatures who came out of European literature”.

El-Salahi’s international success soon turned him into a national hero, so much so that in 1970 the Department of Tourism distributed a poster in which El-Salahi posed in his studio, with the caption “Sudanese artist at work”.

mid-late-60s-6e_0/photo © Ibrahim El-Salahi, via Tate/

El-Salahi developed his own style and was one of the first artists to elaborate the Arabic calligraphy in his paintings. He developed an iconography from sources in primitive and Muslim art, leading to the formation of the Khartoum School.

He was an assistant cultural attaché at the Sudanese Embassy in London from 1969 to 1972, when he returned to Sudan and became Undersecretary in the Ministry of Culture and Information until September 1975. At that time he was imprisoned without charge for six months.

Deprived of pen and paper, El-Salahi secretly drew designs in the sand during his daily 25 minute exercise break, protected by other prisoners, and quickly erasing his work as the guards approached. He summed up his experience in prison in a series of parables. Hassan Musa mentions his favorite one:

For the first few weeks of detention, we claimed Freedom and Respect according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then, because the prison food was tasteless, we asked for a few onions.

One day, during the monthly visit of the Director of Prisons, it was my turn to ask for the precious onions. We were given three onions, which were to last us until the next visit. I took a piece of onion and planted it in the damp soil under our earthenware jar of drinking water, hoping to see something growing. When the onion became a plant, my fellow inmates called it ‘Salahi’s garden’.”

ibrahim el salahi/photo © The Inevitable, Ibrahim El-Salahi/

The Inevitable is El-Salahi’s reaction to his time spent in prison: the canvas divided into nine separate sections that represent the different periods of time incarcerated. Niccoló Milanese writes about the painting:

In The Inevitable, eyes are either shaded-out into black voids, or are averted from the viewer. Only a soldier keeps a sideways watch on us. The picture is machine-like, sharp and cold. For there is a demand and a prayer made in each of El Salahi’s designs, and in this picture the questions posed are the same, but here the responsibility is even greater: who will dare to look at this? Who will dare to do something to avoid The Inevitable?”.

In the summer of 2013 a major retrospective show of El-Salahi’s work was mounted at Tate Modern – it was Tate’s first retrospective dedicated to an African artist.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

12-year-old artist from Gaza: Painting is a universal language.

Mohammed Qryqa is a 12-year-old painter from Gaza. Despite his young age, his artworks receive a lot of attention and praise from much older artists and the public. This August, Mohammed was on a tour in Tunisia. He was invited to different cities to present his work. “This doesn’t mean I forget the issues and concerns of my people in Gaza. I’m in Gaza forever,” he said on his Facebook page. Valentina Primo writes how MBC News called him the Arab Picasso, but Mohammed rejected the title. “Picasso is an artist with his own identity and his own style,” he explained, “and I want to be known as Mohamed‏ Qryqa.”

He also said being famous feels like  breaking down walls, stating: “If I get to cross over, it will be a sign that the wall dividing the Palestinian lands could begin to be broken”‏. His biggest wish is to talk about his life, Gaza and Palestine, through his paintings – “I dream of telling the world about Palestine and its people, its prisoners, its children. Foreigners do not understand our language but they can understand us through painting.”

5-copia© Yaser Murtaja & Rushdi Sarraj/Baraka Bits

13-copia© Yaser Murtaja & Rushdi Sarraj/Baraka Bits

15-copia© Yaser Murtaja & Rushdi Sarraj/Baraka Bits

73© Yaser Murtaja & Rushdi Sarraj/Baraka Bits

10360480_322727611229700_8390236767960814365_n© Mohammed’s facebook page

moh© Mohammed’s facebook page

For more, go to Baraka Bits, and visit Mohammed’s facebook page.

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art of resistance, Syria

Syria on canvas.

Wissam Al Jazairy is Syrian mixed media artist, born in Damascus. He began studying digital arts in 2008 at the University of New Bulgaria, where he graduated in 2011. He started painting more in 2011, with  the outbreak of violence and war in Syria. Last couple of years his work was exhibited in United States, Europe, and all over the Middle East.

Here are some of his powerful artworks.

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/© Wissam Al Jazairy/

For more on Al Jazairy and his artworks, visit his official website.

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