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Syrian magazine publishes second edition

31 October 20170 comments

A new magazine that gives a voice to the people of Syria through stories, poetry and reflection has published its second edition.

The Melbourne-based editors of ‘Beloved Syria – Considering Syrian Perspectives’ say the magazine aims to reveal the beauty of Syria that lies behind media reports of the conflict there.

Editors Norma Medawar and Susan Dirgham say the publication gives voice to the beauty of Syria.

“Syria’s landscape; its art, culture and traditions as well as its music, monuments and trellis are important to Syrians – even those forced to flee the country,” they said.

“Syrians express a great love for their country, a deep affection that indicates their links to the land and its history. Damascus and Aleppo, the two oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, are in Syria.

“We hope ‘Beloved Syria’ helps people feel connected to this ancient land and its resilient people,” they said.

Norma was born and raised in Syria before she recently arrived in Australian as a refugee.

Her co-editor Susan Dirgham lived in Damascus for two years and taught English at the British Council.

The latest edition features articles about Syrians living in Australia, traditional and local art, essay on aspects of Syrian life, a section focusing on the city of Aleppo, book reviews and recipes.

The magazine’s cover story features renowned oud player Fadi Haddad who fled Syria and came to Australia with family members in 2015.

Fadi tells of his passion to express himself through music; and particularly the oud – an instrument he fell in love with at age five.

“I’ve been playing the oud for as long as I can remember,” he told the magazine.

“I used to listen to my uncle play on this sensitive instrument. Its tone touched my heart,” Fadi said.

“I came to Australia with my family in 2015. We are really grateful to the people of Australia for accepting us and for their kindness and generosity.

“It is beautiful to experience the kindness of people but the big problem for us at the moment is that we feel alone – we miss our cousins and friends,” Fadi said.

The magazine also features the work of artist Aghyad al-Atassi who fled his home in the Syrian city of Homs when a bomb almost claimed his daughter’s life and tragically killed her friend,

Aghyad had lived all his life in the once beautiful city of Homs where he had become a respected and sought after artist.

Fearing for his family, Aghyad, 48, took them to Mersin in Turkey where they lived for a year and half before coming to Australia through the United Nations refugee program.

He had to leave many of his paintings in Homs when they fled and greatly mourns their loss along with many of his friends and the life he knew and cherished.

From tragedy however beauty has emerged – an achingly sad and painful beauty in the form of Aghyad’s portraits.

Painted from memory and from photographic images, Aghyad’s portraits tell the stories of the refugee experience, of war and displacement and of new beginnings. These portraits are deeply personal, they have helped him to heal and find humanity amongst the tragedy.

A self-taught painter he hopes the viewer will appreciate the fragility of life and realise that behind the statistics of war and the arguments over ideologies there are people, ordinary people wanting a better life and wanting peace.

He says he is very influenced by the post-impressionists, especially Van Gogh and Cezanne, and also draws inspiration from Edvard Munch.

“I love the work of these artists – it is almost sublime,” he said.

Like his other great influence Modigliani, Aghyad has developed his own unique style.

Painting predominantly in oils and acrylics but also occasionally in soft pastels and watercolours, Aghyad was initially drawn to natural scenes and the exquisitely detailed architecture of his beautiful town of Homs.

“I think art must be a simple expression that can be easily understood by the viewer so as to evoke an immediate reaction,” he said.

But in 2014 everything changed.

“The war came to my home. Life became filled with fear and turmoil as the bombs destroyed our peaceful, beautiful town,” Aghyad said.

Beloved Syria – Considering Syrian Perspectives can be purchased at the Travellers Bookstore in Fitzroy, or at the Eltham Bookshop in Eltham. It can also be ordered via emailing or visiting their website by clicking here.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist