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Refugee artist with practical dreams

27 August 20200 comments

Having to flee violence and threats twice in her life has influenced the work that young Syrian artist Rama Kadrou produces.

Her images convey an almost visceral sense of what it is to be a refugee and speak of the perils of refugee journeys but also of the hope and resilience refugees carry with them.

And living precariously as a displaced refugee has also built a determination in Rama to turn her passion for art into a career.

“I think that because of what I have been through as a refugee, I can translate those feelings into my art and my drawing,” she said.

“For me, it’s about describing visually what I’ve been through and also adding layers of feeling lie sympathy and regret,” Rama said.

“But I’m also planning to transfer my painting to tattoo art. If you are working in oils or acrylics, it’s very hard to make a living, it’s more of a hobby.

“But I think I can turn art into a career through tattoos and I’ve started practising,” Rama said.

Rama and her mother and brother fled Syria eight years ago. She had been studying at high school in the city of Lattakia, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

“But when war came, school stopped and I couldn’t go any more,” Rama said.

While there was no open warfare in Lattakia, the conflict meant a collapse of security in most of Syria.

“Our city wasn’t that bad. There was no real fighting but it was still not safe. People were being kidnapped and ransomed. I couldn’t go out on the street,” Rama said.

So we moved to Egypt, but it was not safe for us there either,” she said.

In recent years Egypt has seen a rise in persecution and violence against Christians. There have been attacks on churches and the kidnap of girls by Islamist extremists intent on forcing them to marry Muslims.

A Christians from Syria, Rama and her family felt under threat.

“It was really not safe for me to go out in Egypt ad I could not study or take courses,” she said.

“I basically stayed home for a year and half and practised my drawing,” Rama said.

When her family moved to Turkey, Rama was able to finish her high school education.

“I also studied at a small art studio in Turkey and prepared to take an exam that would allow me to study art at university,” she said.

It was then, in 2015, that the family received visas to come to Australia as refugees.

“It was amazing to come to Australia, we finally felt safe,” Rama said.

“I’ve been studying graphic art but because of the COVID lockdown, I’ve had to stop. So, now I’m doing a business course online to help me start my own business in the future.     

Rama has been drawing and painting for eight years and is preparing to study fine art at university. And she credits her mother with stoking her passing for art.

“I didn’t really know that I liked art but I started drawing. It was nothing really, just lines,” she said.

“But my mum saw something in it and she encouraged me to go a do an art course. I did and I haven’t looked back. It’s become my passion,” Rama said.

Since arriving in Melbourne, her work has been featured in two public exhibitions.

“I was part of an exhibition at a gallery in Sydney Road which featured five artists and I had another with friend who is also an artist, Rama said.