The art scene has historically been dominated by European and Western artists, but with the rise of social media, Middle Eastern art and Artists have become accessible to the world. While dealing with themes of identity, culture, and loss, our existence alone becomes political - and what better way to preserve and educate the masses than through art. The following artists keep up with the ever changing cultural landscape of the Middle Eastern region.
Ahmed Al-Rafaie (@owaikeo)
Kuwaiti based digital illustrator Ahmed Al-Rafaie combines mesmerizing animations and colourful creations to bring the vivacious Middle Eastern culture to life. Al-Rafaie is inspired by cultural traditions and his own identity to shed a modern light on our ever-changing world. His work is not only playful and vibrant, but personal and deeply nostalgic. The stylistic use of relatable characters and themes transports us back to our roots and provides a sense of home, comfort and community.
A self proclaimed citizen of the world - Kurdish neo expressionist artist Bîstyek has never felt like he belonged anywhere. Growing up in Syria, immigrating to Lebanon, and now residing in Canada, he explains that his work doesn’t necessarily echo his heritage, but rather his experiences and what he chooses to express. Self-taught, he works with bright and bold acrylic colours and spray paints to create large paintings and murals, oftentimes exploring themes of immigration, seeking refuge and its many anxieties. Although speaking 3 languages, he paints what words cannot express.
Dana Barqawi (@dana_barqawi)
Inspired by actions intended to reclaim indigenous narratives, Palestinian - Jordanian artist Dana Barqawi works to redefine her own. She produces art that challenges colonial narratives, explores indigenous identities and aspects of womanhood and community. Predominantly working with mixed media, she combines multifaceted materials to showcase the multidimensional themes within her own work.
Irina Naji (@irina.naji)
Russian born artist Irina Naji and her Palestinian husband Maher Naji dedicate their paintings to celebrating Palestine, its people and traditions. She and her husband lived in Gaza for 24 years. Naji considers herself more Palestinian than Russian, she embraces the culture, the people, and its abundant beauty. “Palestinians are great people and I'll continue sharing their stories through my paintings”. Although recently moving to Belgium, she feels especially drawn to continue honouring Palestinian culture through her art, hoping it immortalises its beauty forever.
Jasmine Hawamdeh (@jas.hawamdeh)
Toronto local, Jasmine Hawamdeh explores themes of femininity, sexuality, national identity and the diasporic experience. As an artist who grew up in diaspora, she yearned to return to Palestine. Compelled by this need, she sought out to make meaning of her world and explore her Palestinian identity through art - bringing her closer to her culture and self.
Nour Fuqa (@nour_archive)
Nour is a Palestinian based artist and architect who draws inspiration from her rich culture to create digital collages as well as watercolour and acrylic paintings. She tries to convey what she calls “the true Palestine” in her artwork in order to “immortalize the culture”. She views art as resistance and hopes her work will serve as a memory of the Palestinian people’s survival and cultural identity.
Omar Sarsour (@mashallahwallahi)
Omar is a Palestinian-American photographer working in digital and film photography. Drawing inspiration from both music and his cultural lineage, Sarsour works to convey themes of identity in how we navigate the world. He asks questions about who’s included, who’s left behind and who’s made to feel the need to conform. His dream-like photography showcases fleeting moments and an intersectionality between identity, space and existence.
Tracy Chahwan (@tracychahwan)
Artist Tracy Chahwan’s Lebanese identity influences her to explore themes related to Lebanese history, politics and environment, especially in her comics. She predominantly works with bold graphic styles and statement colours giving her work a 60s and 70s grunge poster aesthetic. Chahwan finds interest in the political - finding ways to echo such notions in her art. Her work redefines her own lived experiences from the day to day to larger socio-political events including Arab-feminist waves to honouring the victims of the 2020 Beirut Port explosion.