“In my native city, my work stemmed from oppression, hunger, siege and loss of safety. I could feel my painting brush in my heart before I could feel it in my hand,” says Akram Sweidan, the artist known as the Painter On Death.
When boxes of ammunition, rounds of bullets and Russian cluster bombs that fell on Syrians turn into a masterpiece that resists death, we talk about Akram Sweidan, son of Douma, in Damascus countryside.
Here is an idea about the art of decorating missiles under bombardment.
“Years after the start of the Syrian revolution, which came out peacefully demanding freedom and dignity and was later armed because of the criminality of the Assad regime and external funding, I began to think about re-demonstrating the peaceful side of the revolution and that we love life, not war and death,” Akram says.
Akram started collecting some remnants of shells and remnants of ammunition boxes. Then he decorated them to change their bloody character to remove fear from the eyes of his children who knew nothing of their homeland except that it was being bombed day and night. This was how and why he bagan his first works of art.
About the story of his displacement, the artist tells us: “My departure from Douma in the Eastern Gouta of Damascus was not of my own volition, but I was forced to do so by the Assad regime. It was the best solution was to save my children and family despite the bitterness of psychological, moral and material displacement, and when I arrived in northern Syria, the bombing of the Assad regime and Russia continued every day on unarmed civilians.”
As for his early beginnings, Akram tells us that he began with a work that mimicked the “Painting On Death” project, which was posted on social media under the title “We Will Return,” in which the names of the destroyed cities were documented on the remains of a cluster rocket from a Russian plane.
On his individual and collective exhibitions, he says: “I have held several exhibitions in Eastern Ghouta, then in Qatar through my participation in an exhibition on supporting Syrian refugees in 2015; then in Washington and California, including a participation in the U.S. Capitol, followed by a special exhibition of my work in Stockholm, which was then in other Swedish cities. In Germany, I participated in “Syria: Art and Escape” Exhibition for a period of two years together with Syrian and German artists. I also participated in an exhibition held in Brussels under the supervision of “People in Syria” Group dealing with some Syrian stories through paintings. In 2016, in collaboration with a French institution, I printed a 2016 calendar containing 12 “Painting On Death” paintings, and its money returns were used to buy winter clothes for the children of Eastern Ghouta, and were also displayed in Katara Cultural District for 20 days in Qatar.
When asked about his talent and his upcoming projects, Akram replied: “Frankly, I am thinking of stopping this work for a number of reasons. It does not bring me any financial returns. I have a family to support. That’s why I’m looking for work to win my daily bread; maybe I will excerise my hobby in my free time.”
“I live today with my family in al-Bab and I live in frustration and despair from the organizations and the de facto officials who climbed on the revolution, as well as not helping me get my art out to participate in new external exhibitions and not being interested in spreading the message of Syrians abroad,” Akram speaks about where he lives now and the problems he is facing now.
Artist Akram Sweidan concludes: “I wish those who watch and admire my work to know that each of the shells I painted on almost took my life as it probably claimed the lives of other Syrians.”
Perhaps now a young Ukrainian is drawing on Putin’s missiles in Ukraine as this young Syrian did.