Syrian-Palestinian artist Yasser Abu Hamed has come a long way over the last three years. In his own words, through the course of the Syrian uprising he has evolved “from being very disorganized to becoming a highly productive and committed individual.” He now paints on a daily basis, and his canvases reveal a close and timely connection to the unfolding of events on the ground.
“The ladders of presidency”, is the title of one of Abu Hamed’s cartoons on the upcoming Syrian elections. Like many other artists, he uses dark humor to reflect on the grotesqueness of Bashar al-Assad’s running for presidency in the context of destruction, murder, torture and starvation.
Other drawings by the artist on the same issue show the ruler in similarly mocking positions: next to a ballot box surrounded by a sea of blood; sitting on a chair, holding a gun on top of a military boot; next to a blood-stained banner that reads “Sawa” (together, in Arabic), the slogan chosen for the upcoming presidential elections.
Born in the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Raml in the city of Latakia, Abu Hamed started painting from an early age. Since secondary school, he has devoted himself to digital technology, animation and 3D. Since he “dislikes the long, endless conversations on social media”, after the outbreak of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa he decided to express his views through his drawings. He then realized that everything he shared on his facebook page attracted much attention and comments and decided to put more attention into the details and technical aspects. His work has since become increasingly professional, mostly focused on the Syrian uprising.
“The Syrian uprising is part of a regional revolution, of what’s called the Arab Spring, and its eruption was to be expected. In fact, it was inevitable,” the artist said to SyriaUntold.
Despite his hope in the revolution, Abu Hamed does not hide his concerns. “We are at a point of no return,” he assured. “Our revolution grew from a fetus to a baby, a creature that cries and laughs and needs love and attention to survive. It is up to us to care for it, to kiss it and nourish it, so that we can at least achieve some of our goals, even if with huge losses, like it is happening in Tunis and Egypt.”
While most of his latest work focuses on Syria, the artist also reflects on other issues, such as women’s rights in the region. One of his most powerful paintings, “I’m the man of the house”, made to commemorate International Women’s Day, shows a deep concern about the violent effects of patriarchal societies. The same concern is reflected on his “Family Portrait”, which uses the long traditional moustache as a symbol, and whose subheadlines reads: “Do not see, do not hear, and do not speak about domestic violence.”
From his refugee camp in Latakia to Australia, where he is now based, Yasser Abu Ahmed continues to mock the Syrian government, the region's rulers, and the world, which has deprived him of both of his hometowns.