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Saudi Gazette, Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Gallery

w e e k e n d e d i t i o n@s a u d i g a z e t t e . c o m . s a

By Mariam Nihal

Saudi Gazette

“T

OGETHER, the

paper and ink

are the record

of events. We

stand on pages

with stories from

the past. Pages

we cannot open. A book of stories we

cannot read. A document of lessons we

cannot learn from,” Muhannad Shono.

The artist’s works mainly discuss dis-

placement, immigration and those who

live the aftermath of both. Art is usually

born out of yearning that leads one to

express themselves with tools they have.

Shono does the same using his prolific

skills, fervent imagination and of course

his mixed background. “I am Saudi but

my parents are originally Syrian and eth-

nically, Southern Russian. So I grew up

feeling and questioning whether I belong

or not. When it came to identity, the way

I look and the family not having that kind

of heritage. A lot of things I experienced

growing up in Saudi were things my

parents did not know about and learned

through me,” he told Saudi Gazette. Cul-

ture clash was a dominating theme that

taught him early lessons as a child.

“I used to think the place you feel is

home, depends on the people you find.

Then you realize you can find interesting

people everywhere you go.” So where

does he feel at home? “I still feel dis-

placed to be honest. But I feel comfort-

able in Saudi as compared to anywhere

else, even Australia where I was living for

a while.”

His work manifests a lot of themes

that run through his life and also channels

an inner conflict in the process. “A lot of

my work talks about displacement and

immigration. This series is from the solo

show I had at Effat last year called ‘Chil-

dren of Yam’. This is the story of one of

the four sons of Noah. Three of the boys

got on the boat to survive the flood. This

story is about Yam who refused to follow

his father’s doctrine. They say he tried to

seek refuge in the mountains and later

drowned. He was an example of someone

who did not follow the rules. For me, he

was interesting as a character because

he was someone who refused to follow

doctrine blindly and tried to survive the

flood. So his children are lost and for me

these are the displaced migrants that

have been forced out of their homes.

The ink that exists in all the works is the

force that is out of our control, one that is

causing people to be displaced from their

homes- be it war, violence, sectarian vio-

lence, economic and environmental rea-

sons- all those things that are out of our

control. When I worked on these pieces I

wanted the ink to be out of my control and

then I wanted to react to it. So once these

things were stained I would then come in

and try to find stories of displacement and

migration to try and create landscapes

and details,” Shono explained. His gaze

turned to a sketchbook and as his mind

drifted to a story he once imagined, he

flipped through charcoal edged pages of

a book with his sketches.

“When I started with this set for ex-

ample. This is about borders and sepa-

ration,” he said pointing to a character

sitting by himself on an end of a page

facing a similar specie on another. “You

have two people trying to find each other.

As you go through the story you see them

meditating and finding each other on dif-

ferent landscapes until they find ladders

and bridges. He climbs through a hole

and reaches the other side.” He further

explained that all the illustrated pieces

are stuck together like a ‘cross section

through the earth like a book’. “The earth

is like a record. There are lessons to be

learned from the past or we are doomed

to repeat the same mistakes.”

Through his art, Shono is able to rec-

oncile the drifting thoughts and reflec-

tions in his mind. “Yes, it is do with my-

self. Feeling I can almost relate. First of

all not wanting to follow doctrine blindly.

Yet there might be a price to pay. We

don’t know what happens after they sur-

vive the flood. Flood myth exists in every

culture through time and it is not true that

only a man and woman survive with a

bunch of seeds.”

If you missed his work at Art Dubai,

check out his website www.muhannad-

shono.com

and follow him for updates on

Instagram @muhannad.shono

Art talk with Muhannad Shono

Children

Yam

- T H E

D I S P L A C E D

A N D T H E

F O R G O T T E N