Syrian artist Hossam al-Saadi never thought that he would resume drawing caricatures after a 20-year break. He drew his first cartoon in 1992 in his hometown, the southwestern city of Sweida, when he was only 15.
“The Syrian revolution pushed me to start drawing again, as if my fingers had taken a life of their own,” he said in an interview with Syria Untold.
Soon after the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, al-Saadi´s well-known cafeteria, Arkada, became the meeting point for pro-democracy activists in the city. His early involvement in the citizen mobilizations made him the target of constant threats and harassment by regime officials. Soon after Bashar al-Assad´s March 30 speech, he was bullied into hanging a picture of the dictator on his cafeteria´s main entrance.
The artist, who was born in Kuwait in 1978, was forced to leave Syria soon after the outbreak of the uprising. Since then, he has lived in Lebanon, where he resumed his work as a cartoonist and participated in several worldwide exhibitions, including in Finland and Switzerland.
Al-Saadi, who now represents the Syrian National Coalition as a member of the Sweida revolutionary movement, usually shares his drawings on the Sweida´s Coordination Committee facebook page. “It was the first platform that supported me and published my cartoons, so I will always be very thankful to them,” he said.
“The Syrian revolution and the regime´s reactions to manifestations of art and humor have taught me that cartoons are not a joke,” al-Saadi asserts, “as they shed light on people´s pain and concerns, and point at the dictator as being directly and ultimately responsible for everything that is happening in the country. The art of caricature is at the core of our revolutionary process.”
Through his drawings, the cartoonist fights the escalation of sectarian discourses and reminds us of the colorful nature of Syrian social fabric. He is also very critical of the democratic shortcomings of the political opposition. The only way to address this, al-Saadi assured, “is to fight our own inner tyrants, and the effects of institutionalized corruption on each of us” That is, according to the artist, the way to build the Syria many dream of and work for.
To follow Hossam al-Saad´s work, click on his facebook page.