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Syrian Refugees Preserve Syria’s History in Monumental Miniatures

Syrians may not be able to do much to stop the war that has eaten up their country. Nevertheless with the love and connection they have with their beloved country, many of them have made sure that everyone remembers Syria at its fullest beauty. After many Syrian historical monuments were destroyed by militants, Syrian refugees in Za’atari Camp, Jordan, gathered to recreate the historical monuments that marked their homeland in miniature structures.  

Like many Syrians, Ahmad Hariri, a 31-year-old network engineer and a refugee in Za’atari Camp, who watched the destruction of the history of his country felt the urge to do something. Not being an artist himself, Ahmad Hariri tried to gather Syrian artists from around the camp so that they would rebuild Syria’s destroyed monuments using whatever material they could find. By the end of 2014, a group of 7 Syrian artists gathered to work on a six- month project called “Art from Za’atri”. Using wood, clay, rocks and kebab skewers, these artists recreated the most important Syrian monuments in miniature form.

One of the artists that participated in this project is Mahmoud Hariri. Hariri, 26 years old, escaped his home in Dara’a in 2013 and ended up with many other Syrians in Za’atari camp. When the former art teacher heard about the group, he joined without a second thought. He recreated a breathtaking model of Palmyra, one of the most recognizable sites that dates back to the early second millennium BC. Hariri used clay and wooden kebab skewers to recreate the ancient city and he took note of the tiniest details to come up with an accurate model.

Model of Palmyra:

Monumental Miniatures
Photo Credit: pbs.org

Another artist, Iyad Sabbagh, recreated Deir ez-Zor Suspension Bridge which is located in Deir ez-Zor, the largest city in the eastern part of Syria. The historical bridge was completed in 1927 and used to stretch over the Euphrates before it was majorly destructed in May, 2013. Knowing the bridge by heart, Sabbagh rebuilt the bridge successfully with the simple material available.

Deir ez-Zor Suspension Bridge:

Monumental Miniatures
Photo Credit: pbs.org

The artists used photographs, paintings and illustrations to built the most accurate models possible. The models are all small and the largest one doesn’t exceed the width of a small table. Among the collection are miniatures of Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque, the Citadel of Aleppo, a water wheel called Norias, and a statue of Saladin which are all important Syrian monuments with a heavy historical value.

Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque:

Monumental Miniatures
Photo Credit: pbs.org

The Citadel of Aleppo:

Monumental Miniatures
Photo Credit: pbs.org

The Norias Of Hama:

Monumental Miniatures
Photo Credit: pbs.org

The Statue of Saladin:

Monumental Miniatures
Photo Credit: pbs.org

These artists know how important art is! Since as Mahmoud Hariri says:  

“A lot of what  we know about ancient civilization or prehistoric people is preserved through their art- Egyptian hieroglyph or cave paintings.”  

For these refugee artists, art preserves Syria’s history, not only for those who are nostalgic to go back to their home country, but also for the younger generations who are growing away from their country.
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