Syrian artist depicts world leaders as refugees

Abdalla Al Omari’s own experience with displacement prompted him to create The Vulnerability Series

Entertainment Desk June 18, 2017
Angela Merkel. PHOTO: FILE

A Syrian artist has reimagined US President Donald Trump and 10 other world leaders as refugees in a series of paintings currently on display in Dubai. Abdalla Al Omari, who has refugee status in Belgium, says his own experience with displacement prompted him to create The Vulnerability Series.

"Being a refugee is like having a new lump in your body that you had nothing to do with, and it will stay until the last day, so you better deal with it," Al Omari told CNN.

Emerging artists: Pop-up show aims to find Next Big Thing

In the series, Trump is portrayed as a refugee holding a young child; his belongings and a sleeping mat on his back, and a photo of his family clutched in his right hand. The rest of the paintings, currently on exhibit at a Dubai gallery, show former president Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and several other world leaders as “disenfranchised or displaced civilians,” per the gallery’s release.

“Initially I was driven by my own experience of displacement and the anger that I felt, like any other Syrian, while the situation in Syria escalated,” Al Omari said in a video on the series that he sent to HuffPost. “It was a personal desire, in the beginning, to imagine how would those supposedly great personalities look like if they were in the shoes of refugees, displaced.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad also feature. Putin, whose military has conducted airstrikes on Syria's rebel-held areas, is depicted as a homeless person, while Assad appears partially submerged in water with only a paper boat to come to his aid. Speaking about this, he said, “I found myself obliged emotionally and consciously to get involved and to deliver a message to those leaders, who are partly responsible for the displacement of a mass of Syrians. Maybe they will feel what it is to be vulnerable when they see it in the mirror when they see it in themselves.”

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to build fences in New York

In another painting entitled The Queue, a seemingly endless line of people waiting for food, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and former US President Barack Obama, is depicted.

While reactions to the series have been "90% positive”, according to Al Omari, the artist also received a fair share of criticism. "People are sometimes too fond of their politicians. They cannot see them fall off their thrones. They cannot see them weak," he said, adding his intention was not to disrespect world leaders, but to give them back their humanity. "Somehow my aim shifted from an expression of anger that I had, to a more vivid desire to disarm my figures, to picture them outside their positions of power."

Al Omari, who fled Syria after the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, was granted asylum in Belgium. Currently living in Brussels, he started working on the series over two years ago.

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

Most Read