Paintings by over 10 Syrian artists who reside in the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan will be on display from March 2, 2020 through April 15, 2020 at the Tisch Library. The exhibition was brought to the US through collaboration with the STEM CURES Project, a local organization formed to share hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula, supplies, and financial support with communities of underserved refugees, educators and students (CURES).
The works 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 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.
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. A work by Tamar Jokhadar shows an adult hand reaching through a frame to rest against the face of a young boy, his eyes closed to savor the warmth of a human touch. The artist’s notes explain the simple desires of many children in the camps to feel the touch and kindness of others and to be more than a subject for photographs taken by visitors to the camps.
STEM CURES Project co-founder Ayman Halaseh (EG15) recently brought the works back from Jordan. “We are seeking collaborators including other galleries and sponsors to create a traveling exhibit of some of the pieces. The exhibit tells the refugee artist stories, including their dreams and fears, using the power of art.” Project advisor and teacher Christine Rioux (EG88, G09) developed a discussion guide for visitors including faculty who would like to view the art with their students. She hopes faculty from many departments and across Tufts will see the exhibit as an opportunity to learn more about the Syrian crisis through the eyes of the artists. “The artwork provides a pathway to understanding the human toll of this protracted crisis. Whether one teaches history, language, music, community health, or engineering, the works invite the viewer to look deeper into the stories and circumstances behind each painting.”