As violent conflict continues in Syria, some natives are expressing their feelings on the revolution through art. The artists, however, are not free from consequence.
Celebrated painter and writer Fadia Afashe and her husband, actor Jihad “Jay” Abdo, are two Syrian refugees who fled the country because of the danger to themselves from the escalating conflict there.
Lake Effect's Bonnie North first spoke with them on an earlier visit here, during the summer of 2013. Unfortunately, very little has changed in Syria since that visit.
A native of Damascus, Afashe hoped to go back to a democratic Syria after one year of art school in the United States, but could not. She and Abdo continue to work from this country to support the rebel cause against the Assad regime.
Afashe and Abdo strongly believe in their art. Abdo says art has a bigger impact than words.
“This art is much more readable for people,” Abdo says. “So they read it, they understand it, and above all, they trust it. And they throw their hopes on this art, on this young generation.”
The artists/activists say Syrians are being attacked by Islamists and jihadists, while the world is trying to figure out which side of the conflict is telling the truth. Moreover, they say the Syrian government has more internet access than the citizens, who have trouble finding a hot spot to get online. Therefore, the government has more control over what information is sent out to the world.
Artists are doing their best to show the feelings of the people. Afashe emphasizes the importance for artists to have a message because art must always be active, especially during a revolution. From painting to poetry to graffiti, the message needs to get out.
“I appreciate the message more than the art itself,” Afashe says, adding that art allows the rest of the world to see the truth from both sides.
The couple are in Milwaukee today as guests of the UWM’s Institute of World Affairs. They’ll give a talk, entitled Unsettled, Resettled: Refugees and Their Adopted Communities, tonight at 7 pm at the Fireside Lounge in UWM’s student union.