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Syrian refugees everyday people in Windgate photos

by Ellis Widner | March 12, 2020 at 1:47 a.m.
Kefah is one of 20 Syrian refugees profiled in the exhibit “The Faces of Syrian Refugees,” through April 4, Windgate Gallery, University of Arkansas — Pulaski Technical College. (Courtesy UAPTC)

The ongoing tragedy of Syria, torn apart by nearly a decade of warfare, keeps growing.

We see brief scenes of refugees, their suffering and the destruction of their homes in recent news accounts of Syrian attacks in Idlib province that show the displacement of many thousands of people.

But who are the Syrians? "The Faces of Syrian Refugees," an exhibition by photographer Michael Cohen at the Windgate Gallery at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, seeks to answer that question; to put a human connection on the face of tragedy.

Cohen visited Syrian refugees, and this exhibition focuses on 20 who have resettled in Europe and North America.

These 20 male and female Syrians -- including Ali, Laura, Talar, Derar and Kefah -- are presented in life-size three-fold panels. Two panels have portraits and the third is a question-and-answer interview. This exhibit brings a semblance of an in-person visit. We learn that, like us, these former Syria residents have eclectic interests and feel a deep connection to family and friends who haven't left Syria. Some yearn to return home to live, others just want to see family and friends.

Here are some of their responses:

• Favorite TV show? The Simpsons, Ali; Friends, Laura; The Voice, Talar.

• Favorite line in a song: "Tasted love from the purest fountain" (Enrique Iglesias), Derar.

• Passage or poem you've committed to memory: "Say I Love you so I may grow beautiful" (poet Nizar Qabbani), Derar.

• Favorite book: The Iliad, Ali

• Famous person you'd like to meet: German chancellor Angela Merkel, Ali. "I would like to thank her."

• Favorite musician: "Antonin Dvorak. Every piece of music he composed. I love it," Raed; Amy Winehouse, Laura.

• Favorite English word or phrase. "How's it goin'?" Rawa'a . "Appreciated. We don't use that word, so I first heard it here," Talar.

• What do you want to tell Americans coming to see the exhibit? Kefah's response: "First, come on, try to know more about us. Maybe some of you will fall in love with some of us. And the second: Life is so short. Try to know as much as you can."

Want to get acquainted? The exhibition is up through April 4. It's a fascinating experience that not only puts a human face on a tragedy but brings with it a certain personal understanding.

"The Faces of Syrian Refugees," through April 4, Windgate Gallery, University of Arkansas -- Pulaski Technical College, 3000 W. Scenic Drive, North Little Rock. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Info: (501) 812-2715.

Weekend on 03/12/2020

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