Neha Pant on how artist Abdalla Omari is drawing attention to the refugee crisis in his war-torn country
On his website, before his latest Vulnerablity series, Abdalla Omari has this message to the world—
Hello. Let’s say it clear, I’m weak. And you, officially the strongest, are not that strong either. So, lets all celebrate this.
Abdalla Al Omari
Everything is a matter of perspective and it is always interesting to observe how that perspective changes when the circumstances change. The series which features a recent set of portraits in which the artist re-imagines “controversial world leaders as disenfranchised or displaced civilians,” is making waves across the globe right now.
This is because Omari’s portraits stand out for their stark representation of humanity in despair. In this series, the artist has managed to strip away the carefully chosen characters from their political class and visual, cultural representations of self-righteous charisma.
Omari was initially driven by his own experiences of displacement. As the situation in his native Syria became worse, the artist, who is now settled in Brussels, was intrigued by “the romantic idea of vulnerability and the impact it can generate.’ As he continued work on his series, he eventually arrived at the ‘paradoxical nature of empathy,’ and his focus shifted from expressing his anger to a more vivid desire to disarm his figures by stripping them of their power. “I wanted to take away their power not to serve me and my pain but to give those leaders back their humanity and the audience an insight into what the power of vulnerability can achieve,” the artist said in a statement.
The complexity of this work lies in the fact that the initial wave of sympathy which one feels on looking at Omari’s portraits gets complicated once one realises the true identity of the subject. “Intimate hours I spent with them have thought me more than I could imagine. Just as easily as everything worth defending can become defenceless, moments of absolute powerlessness can give you superpowers. Even I felt sorry for (my version of) Assad. In this universe without gravity, all we can hold on to is our vulnerability. This invisible wind makes our chest heavy, yet, mysteriously propels us back on our feet again. I have convinced myself it is the strongest weapon humankind possesses, way more powerful than the trail of power games, bomb craters and bullet holes in our collective memories. Vulnerability is a gift we should all celebrate,” he says.
Like all good art, this makes you think and re-evaluate your judgment. Take a look below.