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Syrian refugees use paintings to recall beauty, colours of their homeland

By Muath Freij - Jan 26,2017 - Last updated at Jan 26,2017

Visitors examine artwork by Syrian refugees on display at ‘Souriyat across borders’ in Amman recently (Photo courtesy of ‘Souriyat across borders’)

AMMAN — Before the civil war flared up in Syria, Emad Kafri was following in the footsteps of his father in Daraa, spending his free time painting.

It wasn’t just a fun hobby for him, paint and canvas always fascinated Kafri.

When instability erupted in his home country six years ago, Kafri was forced to move from Daraa and settle at Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp, over 80km northeast of Amman, three years ago.

“When I arrived in the camp, I missed painting, and, in the beginning, it was difficult for us to get the necessary equipment to paint,” he told The Jordan Times in Amman.

The suffering of fellow Syrian refugees, he said, prompted him to transform painting from a hobby into a creative medium to convey messages and bring attention to their plight.

Fifteen of his paintings are now on display among more than 100 works at “Souriyat across borders” premises in west Amman as part of an exhibition that is being held to support the talent of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

“I feel that there is a cause I have to highlight,” Kafri added.

Eyad Ayoubi, one of the organisers, said the organisation supports refugees in Jordan, adding that the proceeds of the exhibition, called “Stamps of Hope”, will benefit the artists.

“Our task is to expose the talent of these refugees inside the camp to the world. They don’t want assistance; they have talents that they want to show to the public,” he told The Jordan Times at the exhibition in Amman.

Ayoubi said children living in the camp between the ages of 3 and 18 are taking part in the event, creating beautiful works of art.

Other Syrian artists living outside the camp are also participating in the exhibition, which started earlier this month and concludes next week, he added.

The 28-year-old Kafri said art in general is a source of relief for him.

“Whenever I am upset, I turn to painting to lift my spirits up. The excitement of putting colours into a painting is really great because you feel that you are creating something beautiful,” he added.

Kafri said Syrian artists create the paintings on the fabric of discarded camp tents in a way to transform the object that reminds them of grim memories into a work of art.

Tents at the Zaatari camp, home to 79,559 refugees, have been replaced with trailers.


“I wanted to portray the neighbourhoods of Damascus and the attractions in Syria before the destruction of war to showcase the beauty of our country. This is what I wanted to highlight,” Kafri said.

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