Category Archives: Behind the Lines

Food for Thought: Events at the CRAG This Week

The CRAG invites you to join us for two more events centred around our current exhibit Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art.

We greatly appreciate all of the thoughtful conversations about the art in Behind the Lines that have been going on in the gallery so far. A whole new set of nearly 50 artworks will be debuted at our second opening reception this Thursday, June 13th, from 5 to 7 pm.

All of the works are full of emotion and many reference heavy subject matter. We hope that by generating conversation around the artworks and the personal stories of the artists, we can find hope and strength in our community and remind ourselves that we are not alone in the world.

There are lots of ways for you to get involved with these moving artworks and the Syrian people and culture. This coming Saturday from 1 to 3 pm, the CRAG is hosting an afternoon of Syrian food and music in Spirit Square. The event is free and open to the public, and there is sure to be something for everyone.

We wholeheartedly believe in the power of art to communicate visually, but our thoughts and feelings can be translated through words as well. Stepping out of your comfort zone to learn even a little of someone’s language goes a long way towards understanding someone whose life looks very different from yours.

We invite you to participate in activities that use language as a tool to forge connections. Our Super Saturday activity this month is learning how to write your name in Arabic. All ages can join in! Sarmad will be helping us to explore the beauty of this ancient language.

You can put your Arabic to good use by signing your name on a letter to one of the artists in Behind the Lines. They would love to hear how their work has touched someone like you across the world. We will take care of sending the letters – all you have to do is write. Who knows, you might just make a new friend! That is, after all, how this exhibit came to be. Paul and Humam, the two curators of Behind the Lines, were brave enough to reach out online without ever having met in person in order to create this powerful show.

Once you work up an appetite, the BaBa Gannouj food truck will be parked in the square, serving authentic Syrian and Lebanese cuisine including delicious donair, shawarma, falafel, kebabs and much more.

Fouad Nassar, co-owner of the popular restaurant and food truck with his wife Merell, will be sharing his musical talents on the accordion with us. He will be joined by other local Syrian families who will be performing a traditional dance. We are so lucky to be able to celebrate the diversity in Campbell River- a sign of a healthy and growing community.

Not only are food and gathering to eat great ways to bridge cultural divides, but food can also be a powerful symbol of community in art. For example, Omran Younis uses the imagery of watermelons in his paintings. These would have been a ubiquitous sight in the lively city marketplace, which unfortunately became a site of tragedy when they were targeted by car bombs. His compositions are disjointed and violent, but the bright pink of the watermelon reminds us that Syria’s rich culture and history will persist despite the tragedy of the civil war.

Syria Through a Different Lens: A Night of Syrian Film

The Campbell River Art Gallery will be hosting a film screening on June 5th at the Timberline Theatre from 7 to 9 pm. We have hand-selected three films about Syria of various lengths which each contribute a unique perspective on modern life in Syria. They go hand in hand with the challenging works in Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art, currently on display in our main gallery.

All three films offer a snapshot of daily life in war-torn Syria. Each infused with the Inspiring bravery required to share stories in a place where opportunities for artistic expression are severely limited. These films as well as the artworks in Behind the Lines are a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit.

We hope that this event builds community here in Campbell River, much like the communities that the films highlight and the international collaborative efforts required to make Behind the Lines possible. By fostering discussion around these powerful films, we can create empathy and support for the global plight of refugees and immigrants right here at home.

As a contemporary art gallery, we strive to acknowledge a variety of art forms, including film. Beyond the aesthetic possibilities of cinematography, we believe in the political function of art to tell stories that aren’t being listened to otherwise. The medium of film is perfectly poised to accomplish this, due the accessibility of today’s technology. An aspiring filmmaker doesn’t need much equipment other than a cellphone to record and share their vision across the world. We are proud to uplift the voices of contemporary filmmakers, working tirelessly in Syria and beyond to make conditions there known, by sharing these screenings with you.

Mohammad Zaza, The Photographer, 2016.

To give you a sneak peek at the films, below are brief summaries of each. Click through to read more about them.

The first short film is Love During the Siege. This film and Tatlit were produced by Bidayyat, a Syrian company that supports documentaries and experimental films as well as training programs for documentary filmmakers. “Love” chronicles a family living in southern Damascus, personalizing the staggering statistics of the devastation of the civil war.

The feature-length documentary, I Am the Revolution, is a portrait of three powerful women across the Middle East in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are educators, freedom fighters, politicians, and most importantly, leaders. The film’s director is Italian journalist Benedetta Argentieri, who has worked extensively covering conflict in the Middle East.

Tatlit is a short piece which chronicles the goings-on in the urban centre. The scenes are set to a soundtrack with a heavy beat, emphasizing the persistent rhythm of everyday life even in times of hardship.

Tickets for the film night are $7 plus service fees, available through Eventbrite. Popcorn and refreshments will be available for purchase at the event.

We also welcome you to join us on June 13th from 5 to 7 pm for the second opening of Behind the Lines. We have many more new works for you to appreciate and contemplate with your newly deepened appreciation of Syrian culture.

Come see us in Spirit Square the following Saturday, June 15th, from 1 to 3 pm for an afternoon of Syrian food and music. Kids can learn to write their names in Arabic at our monthly Super Saturday event. There will also be guided tours of the second showing with our Curator of Contemporary Art in the main gallery. We hope to see you there!

Celebrating Syrian Art & Music

When we think of Syria’s devastating civil war halfway across the world, many of us in Canada are familiar with a barrage of heart-breaking images of bombed-out buildings and refugees on boats, constantly available in the news. So, how do we truly connect with those affected by war?

The ability of music and art to transcend nationality and personalize is demonstrated by the exhibit Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art in our main gallery. A diverse range of painting, sculpture, and photography explore the horrors of the civil war. Simultaneously, Mohammad Zaza’s mesmerizing and other-worldly, hand-drawn animated videos, and accompanying instrumental music, float across the gallery. This provokes complex emotions and energies amongst the message against war. Visual and musical representation of the personal experience of war is perhaps able to tell us more about Syria and its people than any news story full of facts and figures.

Being able to create and exhibit art is a risk for many artists in Syria who have been forced to flee to Europe and North America. Only six of the twenty artists that are featured in Behind the Lines are still living in Syria. We are lucky enough to have the Orontes Guitar Quartet in Canada for one year through an Artist Protection Fund fellowship as visiting artists at the University of Victoria, now on their Canadian tour. Their resilience and talent is nothing short of inspiring.

Photo courtesy of Orontes Guitar Quartet.

The Orontes Guitar Quartet will be at the Tidemark Theatre in downtown Campbell River, just across the street from the gallery, on Tuesday night in conjunction with the Campbell River Art Gallery’s presentation of the exhibit Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art curated by Paul Crawford of the Penticton Art Gallery. Paul will be giving a talk in the main gallery at 5pm before the concert. He will share his experience of creating the exhibit with Humam Alsalim from the Cyrrus Gallery in Damascus in 2016.

These events are not only an opportunity to enrich Campbell River’s understanding of the abundance and diversity of Syrian art and culture, but they are also a fundraiser for the Immigrant Welcome Centre of North Vancouver Island. $5 from each ticket goes to supporting programs for newcomers to Canada. Our community will be enriched by experiencing Syrian art and music, while also giving back and creating a lasting and local impact in our globalized world. International collaboration and connection can benefit all of us, which is exactly what will be celebrated Tuesday night.

Photo courtesy of Orontes Guitar Quartet.

We look forward to welcoming Paul and the Quartet on Tuesday and hearing their incredible performance. Don’t miss out – tickets are available online. Admission for Paul’s talk is $5 at the CRAG. Check out more upcoming events in June featuring Syrian film and food on the CRAG facebook page.

Check back every week for a blog post on what’s current and exciting at the CRAG this summer.