Abdulmueen Abdulmajeed is a Syrian media figure. TV presenter, and director of various cultural and service programs. Born in 1956, he became well known throughout Syria for his TV program “People and TV” which aired during the 1990s. In 1993, he won the award for Best Comedy Program at the Cairo International Film Festival for his program “From You to You, and Regards to You,” a Candid Camera type show that was the first Syrian TV program to be syndicated outside of Syria. His experience in the media field goes back forty years.
Away from the media, Abdulmueen Abdulmajeed has been interested in recycling for a long time. Prior to leaving Syria, the TV personality/artist had his own workshop in Damascus full of one-of-a-kind artwork he had created and antiques. When he left Syria in 2011 and settled in Istanbul, he was able to continue the recycling art projects he had started in Damascus and now calls his Turkish workshop “Mari for Arts”. The following is a transcript of a conversation SYRIAWISE had with Abdulmueen Abdulmajeed from his home in Istanbul.
Would you please tell us your motivation for doing the video program you created in Istanbul called “Wherever you are?“
The idea is to communicate with displaced Syrians, to learn about their daily activities, their economic situations, and how well they are integrating and assimilating into the society they now find themselves living in as well as how they are adapting to its regulations and laws.
You started the recycling project when you were in Syria. Was it difficult for you to proceed in this field?
To me, recycling and caring for the environment is an educational message we should be sharing with our children to increase their awareness of environmental issues and help them in developing an artistic and aesthetic eye that is not polluted. I hope to create a Syrian generation capable of transforming damaged and disposable things into artistic forms and paintings. It is not a matter of entertainment or a commercial endeavor pursued for fame, or for the purpose of holding exhibitions that will profit me personally.
What is the message you hope to communicate through your project in Istanbul that you call “Mari for Arts”?
The idea of forming the “Mari for Arts” workshop is based on a set of ideas and technical methods for creating handmade crafts with modest tools. Some art pieces are created for the display and viewing on the one hand, and some for home and office use on the other hand.
Most of the raw materials used in the workshop are readily available all around us. They are chosen according to size, shape, composition, and surface texture, taking into account durability and weather resistance in order to preserve the idea of the artwork to be presented to the public.
Some may wonder about this type of business in terms of economic feasibility and profitability. We are surrounded by imported products from outside of our Arab societies, including paintings, souvenirs, and sculptures that are being mass-produced in China and other parts of the world.
My message from the founding of “Mari for Arts” workshop is to elevate handmade artwork and create a sophisticated mentality in dealing with consumer materials that are no longer usable. Repurposing them gives new meaning to recycling while helping to eliminate large areas of visual pollution, replacing them instead with high-end artistic visions rife with meaning and content.
َDo Syrians have an environmental culture of recycling?
Syrians are one of the world’s most innately environmentally friendly people. There are many Syrians who keep cartons or empty drinks, even plastic bags, especially among the elderly. This, in turn, is reflected in the food as well. For example, Syrians never waste food and can always find a way to make an additional meal from what others would throw away. They collect threads, material scraps, and twine that have been discarded to make rugs. This is something innate to them and not the result of culture. It is one of the simplest things in Syria. With the birth of the first child, all his clothes and things are preserved so that the next child, then the third, and so on can benefit from them.
How did your Euphrates heritage and the memory of your childhood home in the city of Al-Mayadin influence you?
While in Syria I was making pieces inspired by the culture of the Euphrates region. I have worked on more than one piece intended to document the history of the Euphrates through recycling.
Did you put your mark on Syrian TV over the thirty years that you worked there? Were your shows archived, and if so, do you have access to them?
Unfortunately, Syrian TV programs became military and political, and I could not use my program as a means for spreading their propaganda. Instead, I decided to leave Syria in order to be able to do something for Syrians now living outside of the country, to serve them with a program similar to my “TV and People” program that was my continuous fingerprint on Syrian TV for 26 years. Unfortunately, the Syrian state TV administration did not consider the programs as material worth archiving and the episodes were always deleted without saving them.
َIf you were given funding for another TV show, what kind of program would you choose to do?
What I would like to do is a game show that involves information about Syria in order to instill in the memory of the next generation that there is a rich history of Syrian civilization with plenty of documentation. Sharing information is easier when it is done through competitions. There is an element of suspense with this type of program where the winning contestant gets a prize. My vision is to pass the information in a way that is competitive and fun, and in this way preserve it for the next generation.