Magnificent  artwork by Syrian artist Suhair Sibai 


Art is one of the ultimate forms of self-expression. Emotions too powerful and complex to convey in words are brought to light with the stroke of a brush. Suhair Sibai’s series ‘Under Syrian Skies’ certainly reflects this. Her paintings beautifully display the deeply complex emotions of those living in the midst of war. The focus on feminine, childlike, subjects emphasises the struggle of the people who are too young to understand the chaos around them, yet will be among those most affected by it. Their loss of innocence is often ignored in the face of rising death counts and human rights violations. But the children of Syria are the ones who will be generation to rebuild their war-torn country and to heal the wounds of the conflict. Sibai also juxtaposes bright colors on the children’s faces and figures against darker, almost shadowy backgrounds to highlight the disruption of childhood in Syria. In countries such as the United States, where wars are fought by soldiers overseas and not in our own neighborhoods, it is easy to forget what happens to the daily lives of those caught in the path of violence. Sibai’s haunting and beautiful series ‘Under Syrian Skies’, reaches across cultural and lingual barriers to communicate the consequences of war in the daily lives of those caught in its path.

A native Syrian now living in Los Angeles, Suhair Sibai has been constantly exploring the ideas of Self in her works. She seeks to express how identity is affected by cultural interaction, especially in aggressive ways. An emigre from Syria, she grew up in a region divided by ethnic and ideological conflict. ‘Under Syrian Skies’ reflects how these experiences affected Sibai’s own identity. Her search for “the Authentic Self” as it is distorted, mutated, and transformed by cultural clash is deeply woven into the series. The figures she has created wear traditional clothing that almost blends in with the surrounding shadows, blurring the lines between the “Self”- the child- and the surrounding violence. The two feed and form each other in a symbolic way that touches on the identity struggles Syrian children face. The eyes of the figures are a focal point of the paintings, either staring at the beholder or demurely pointed downward. Both styles convey the sadness, the pain, and the permanence that the Syrian conflict inflicts on the generation being raised in the midst of it. As the world faces an increasing number of civil conflicts, Sibai’s work on culture and its effects on identity can only become even more important in understanding ourselves and the next generation of conflict survivors.

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