Syrian architect’s building models show devastation of Damascus

Before civil war erupted in his homeland, Syrian architect Mohamad Hafez, who lives and works in the US city of New Haven, coped with his homesickness by building models of old Damascus.

But now, to increase awareness of the tragedy of his country he fashions models of the remains of devastated buildings.

His exhibition “HOMELAND inSECURITY” at Lanoue Gallery, Boston, presented in tandem with Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative. The title underlines how a government’s quest to shore up security can lead to fear and terrible violence, he says.

The show features Hafez’s reconstructions of old Damascus — intact, if ancient — alongside his models of buildings blown to rubble.

Ordinary notes of domestic life which Hafez recorded during a 2011 visit, also form part of the display.

Sounds of birdsong, children at play, and calls to prayer echo through “Collateral Damage,” a building stripped to its framework. Still, clothes hang on the line, a tapestry slides off a chair, as ordinary notes of domestic life endure as relics.

Hafez said: “I feel a great responsibility to use my artwork as a way to communicate on behalf of refugees who have not had circumstances as fortunate as mine. I want to use this platform that I have in the West to advocate for those that are deeply suffering.

“You don’t risk life and limb, the life of your beloved children, by crossing the sea in a flimsy flotation device in the dead of night unless the sea has become safer than the ground you are escaping.

“My art is a way for me to convey that refugees are normal human beings, with families and dreams and aspirations, just like any American. My art is a voice for the Syrian refugees, for Muslim Americans, for forced migrants. I understand the fear of the unknown. But I hope people will come to my exhibits, perhaps meet me and talk about my work with me, and let’s find the common ground that connects us all as human beings.”

The exhibition runs until April 30, 2017.

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