Creativity of Syrian Woman in Arts

Women in Syria have played a significant role in defining art and giving it great importance. This can be seen through the ages, starting before the birth of Christianity and ancient civilizations, via the great statues of Ornina and Mary, which were the first point in enriching art in Syria and presenting specific thoughts of a culture that gave great importance to the female as a symbol of fertility and productivity. Starting from the beautiful female faces of the Roman monuments and mosaics that are a rich inheritance of our Syrian culture, through to the great paintings of women representing mother and child painted by the famous Syrian artist, Louay Kayally, a different meaning to motherhood began to appear in the 60’s, and is now continuing in the 21st century. The creativity of women in Syria is beginning to emerge and a spotlight is being placed on their huge role through art and life.

A woman from a well- known Damascene family told me the story of her life, in that she loved art in all its forms, and in 1951 she was given the opportunity, with her friends, to study with the great Adham Ismail. She had the chance to study abroad in Italy, but she couldn’t take the opportunity because of the closed society she lived in and its rules, and so her dream of study and art evaporated into thin air. Back in the 1950’s, many renowned Damascene families believed studying art abroad was not a suitable prospect for their young women, it went against their moral code and damaged their respectability.

There was no faculty of plastic arts in the capital, Damascus, and it was really difficult for women to go and study abroad; thus it was easier for them to suppress their artistic desires and follow another course in their lives. Luckily things changed when the Faculty of Art opened in Damascus in the 1970’s, and it became easier for women to study art.

Back in Roman times, femininity translated primarily as being mothers, daughters, wives and artists models. The statues that were made for symbolizing women and goddesses show how women were perceived then; however since then life, art and mentalities have developed a lot and new thinkers appeared. The many faces of art are now focusing not only on man and his greatness, but also the power and generosity of woman. This is a great achievement for womankind.

In modern Syria, the role of woman has been enriched in so many aspects of life, and one clear indicator of this are the number of great female artists in our society that give so much of their spirit and soul to art, and reflecting their life through art. Here are a few examples:

A photo exhibition was held in December in the Mustafa Ali art foundation titled “On this day or another”. It represented young women in Syria, and the relationship between women and Orient today. The photo exhibition had shown the results of a workshop that took place at the Institute of Applied Arts in Damascus, on the subject beyond Orientalism – realities of young women in modern Syria. This workshop was sponsored by the German and the Swiss Embassies, that provided a group of 16 women in Syria with professional photography training and with the opportunity to depict the reality of their daily lives from the inside.

Another photo exhibition by the artist Rahaf Al Jallad was held in the Goethe Institute in February 2011. This exhibition focused on the forgotten tiny details in our daily lives that enrich us and give life the beauty that it deserves; aiming to make every viewer stand still for a moment and reflect on how beautiful our lives are and how we can make them better .

Many female artists have proved that we can add a new perspective to art; incorporating our children, husbands and parents. The modern painter, Sara Shammaa, relives her childhood memories, and yet focuses on a modern look to art, showing that a female role in life could go beyond its duties and its responsibilities. Safaa al Set in her latest exhibition at the Arthouse Gallery focused on women and their femininity, their beauty and their outlook in life, via her iron sculptures, which gave a new life to metal and turned them into wonderful pieces, filled with curves and lines and adding a new and modern look to art.

In conclusion, Syrian woman are now proving and showing that, in addition to being housewives and mothers, they can be the artists as well as the models. In doing so, they are taking first place in so many ways.


Haifaa Mafalani