Stories from Kurdistan

A Profile of Kurdish-Syrian Artist Zuhair Hassib Ali

Zuhair Hassib Ali

The following story was submitted by Ava Porter as part of The Kurdish Project’s Stories of Kurdistan. Submit your own story of Kurdistan here.

Where may beauty be found? Is it birthed merely in the environs of a Givernyesque-type setting of verdant green and languid lavende. The kind which Claude Monet glorified? Or may it be found near echoes of violent turmoil and cries of the heartbroken? For within the confines of Damascus is a man who nightly casts his thoughts upon canvas. This nocturnal soldier devoutly wields brush and pencil with painstaking, heart achingly affectionate detail. His works alternately celebrating love and extolling compassion.

Zuhair Hassib Ali is “Hasakah’s sun”

The world knows this man as Zuhair Hassib Ali. But I call him “Hasakah’s sun” and “brother.” From him, this westerner has learned much. Let me preface my remarks by saying I ashamedly confess I’d never expected to be floored by artistic beauty from Syria. Forgive my ignorance. My sole acquaintance with Syria was reliant upon media broadcasts of ISIS, images of buildings burnt into shards, dirt and tear streaked faces of children and anguish upon the faces of citizens..seldom in the news was art of any nature touched upon from that portion of the world.

Zuhair Hassib Ali

Therefore, when I glimpsed the words “Damascus, Syria” on Mr. Hassib’s LinkedIn profile, I felt an awakening.

It was January of this year when I’d initially glimpsed his art. Feeling moved, I’d emailed him, querying, “Mr. Hassib, your work is very soul-touching. What is your inspiration? You have a lovely gift.”

He replied, “From my environment, culture, dear Ava.” I’d immediately wondered what culture would that be. Probing his Linkedin Profile in search of his origins, my eye encountered “Damascus, Syria.” I was shaken. How? I asked myself. How can he produce multiple vivid masterpieces in a war-torn country? They are unique. But “unique” doesn’t begin to describe either Zuhair Hassib, the artist or his works.

Breaking Barriers as a Kurd

This native son of Hasaka, Syrian Kurdistan, was born in 1960. Later, he would break down barriers as a Kurd. Kurdish people weren’t allowed to achieve higher education, historically. However, unwavering and determined, he graduated with an art diploma and was at the top tier of his class from the University of Damascus. But this would be only the beginning.
For he would later exhibit not only in his hometown of Hasaka but in Europe, Damascus, Dubai and throughout other parts of the Middle East. His works would be featured in governmental buildings, businesses and residences. And there would be many who would be fortunate to have the privilege of his tutelage deemed him “Professor.”

Yet, despite his notoriety, he remains humble. And he is a devoted family man, with an enchantingly beautiful wife and children. His daughter, Narine Ali, is a future filmmaker, studying in Berlin. And his son, Omar, is very intelligent and is focusing on business studies. I once asked him about his life’s perception; we have held many conversations of such a nature. He said, “My goal and objective is to spread love and peace through my artwork.” And indeed, he does.

What has struck many is his obvious respect for women, love, and the heartache endured from war, and the peace and comfort which can be found in many of his works. Zuhair is akin to a Kurdish version of Martin Luther King, Jr. in many respects. A Kurdish Gandhi.

Zuhair Hassib Ali

I have witnessed the most cynical of hearts experience a metamorphosis of enlightenment from viewing his works. He employs not only excellent technique but vision and invites us to partake in his vision – whether it’s being sympathetic to the plight of mothers and children enduring the ills of war or of him reminding the viewer of the depths of love’s tenderness.
Other times, the heart is nudged to weep for those who have experienced loss.

A multitude of other images stirs emotions, splashes of crimson reds evoke tenderness and at other times war’s heartache.

Zuhair Hassib Ali

The presence of Melek, the peacock angel of the Yazidis, features prominently in his works, as well.

And then there’s the moon – the ever-present crescent moon which he patiently explained to me one day.

“Brother, what does the moon symbolize?” I queried. He responded, “I tried to find peace on earth but could not, so I went to the moon.”

But I feel, we, who are voyeurs unto his life philosophies via his paintings, do not have to seek the moon to find peace. For he brings it to us.

Yes, I call him Hasaka’s Sun for Zuhair Hassib Ali is ever ascending. But unlike the sun, his brilliance never sets.

View more of Zuhair Hassib Ali’s work here.

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