Basharat Bashir

ABDALLA Al OMARI: Artist and Artwork

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Abdalla Al Omari is a Syrian painter and film maker known for his work in which he depicts world’s powerful leaders as refugees. Omri started his career in Damascus shortly after the outbreak of the conflict in Syria. His paintings describe the experiences of civilians, particularly children, who are caught in the crossfires of war.

Abdalla Al Omari was born in Damascus in 1986 and in 2009, he simultaneously graduated from the Damascus University with a degree in English Literature and the Adham Ismail Institute for Visual Arts. He worked with pioneering Syrian artists in the likes of Ghassan Sibai and Fouad Dahdouh. Al Omari was  granted asylum in Belgium and he currently lives and works in Brussels, where he started the ‘Vulnerability series’.

In one of his painting which is a part of Vulnerability Series Al Omri depicts Donald Trump as a refugee distressed and exhausted carrying his daughter and holding out a family portrait depicting him with probably his lost family. In another painting former US President Barack Obama, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with other world leaders are shown as refugees standing in line for rations while carrying empty tableware. In each painting world leaders are shown as refugees which according to the artist is an attempt to humanize the refugee crisis by showing the vulnerability of world leaders.

Omari, who himself is a Syrian refugee in a statement had said that, “Initially I was driven by my own experience of displacement and the anger that I felt,” Omari had said in a video shared with Global Citizen. “I arrived to the paradoxical nature of empathy and somehow my aim shifted from an expression of anger…to a more vivid desire to disarm my figures, to disarm the characters, and to picture them outside of their positions of power.”

“We see how the media depicts refugees, there is a lot of lack of personalizing these stories,” he said in the video. “If you would tell the story individually, you would connect to those people on a personal, basic level.”

Omari’s portraits are an attempt to force viewers to come face to face with their own vulnerability, and have an idea how it feels to be a powerless refugee. And in the case of world leaders, who pretend to be strong and decisive have their own vulnerabilities and the series is attempt to make them realize their vulnerabilities as well as culpability.

“Maybe those leaders who are partly responsible for the displacement of the mass of Syrians…will feel what it is to be vulnerable when they see it in the mirror, when they see it in themselves,” he said.  .

Al Omri currently lives and works in Belgium, his paintings are housed in the collections of Barjeel Art Foundation UAE, Ayyam Gallery UAE, Kamel Gallery Damascus, the ministry of culture, Syria, among others worldwide.


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