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Ayman Halaseh

Empowering young refugees through education, providing support for future scientists & engineers to rebuild war-affected countries

Art in Exile

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art by somerville artistAymanHalaseh titledSunken Hope
Sunken Hope Oil on Fabric 11''X17
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Artist's Statement

This art exhibition is a powerful and emotional display of the works of Syrian refugees currently residing in the Za'atari and Azrag refugee camps in Jordan. These artists, through their powerful and personal creations, have shared their reflections on the hardships and adversities of the Syrian civil war and life in a refugee camp. The paintings on display offer a glimpse into the personal experiences and emotions of the artists, depicting their journeys as refugees and daily life in the camps, as well as their hopes and dreams for the future.

The works of art featured in this exhibition were created by Syrians currently living in the Za'atari and Azrag refugee camps in Jordan. The works come to us via STEM CURES (Communities of Underserved and Refugee Educators and Students), a Boston-based initiative to ensure that children in these same refugee camps receive education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). STEM CURES believes that human ingenuity exists everywhere, including in refugee camps, and deserves to be cherished and stimulated. These artists, through their powerful and personal creations, have provided a gesture of support for the STEM CURES initiative.

Many of the works are painted on discarded United Nations tents, with the stamp of the UN High Commission for Refugees visible on the back of the canvas. This adds an additional layer of meaning and connection to the pieces, as it serves as a reminder of the harsh reality of war and displacement. The paintings include those of accomplished artists as well as those exploring the medium as a way to capture and convey memories of a lost home, village, or animals that were once part of a now distant life.

Many of the works are portraits of refugees in contemplation, about current and past experiences. They explore the otherwise featureless landscape of the camps through the beauty of a child's face, some with a smile, others peering gravely into an unknown future. in one work, by the artist Ali Jokhadar, a child with beautifully plaited hair stares into an elaborate mirror. The only remaining object amidst a sea of rubble. Returning her gaze is a much older woman, hair astray, with vacant dark eyes. The painting conveys the message of hope for the future, despite the hardships of living in the refugee camp.

Others are a message of hope to children in residence, who have not known any other life. As artist Ali Jokhadar said in reference to his painting of a young boy running and laughing, "Children will enjoy their childhood despite the hardship of living in the refugee camp". The length of a person's stay in a refugee camp varies from crisis to crisis. A guiding tenant of STEM CURES is that, regardless of how long a child will stay in a refugee camp, be it six months or many years, they need to go to school tomorrow.

This exhibition is a powerful and emotional reminder of the human cost of war and displacement. It serves as a gesture of support for the STEM CURES initiative and a message of hope for the future. These works of art are not only beautiful, but also an important reminder of the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

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