Some of our artists have agreed to share their stories with you, their experiences and their creative processes. You can read about them and view some of their work below. ThEse artists’ work is available for purchase at our pop-up shows every month.
Ngwa Afanwi Neba, 34 ♦ Cameroon
Ngwa arrived in Chios Island, Greece, via Turkey, approximately three months ago. He is living in Vial camp, the only refugee camp on the island. Although meant to house only 1,000 people, Vial camp is currently housing 3,000. Ngwa is seeking asylum in Greece. He has a brother who is a refugee in the United Kingdom.
He describes life in Cameroon as “violent, aggressive, and politically hostile.” Growing up, he dreamed of a life filled with peace and freedom.
“I come from a family blessed with creativity,” says Ngwa. Family members, himself included, often drew portraits and sketches of animals for fun. His family encouraged his interest in art from a young age. In school, Ngwa was always selected to draw maps in geography and diagrams in biology. From this starting point his skill in art developed. Ngwa uses art to convey his thoughts and feelings. He aspires to express himself through beautiful pictures.
Ngwa wants people to trust in themselves and believe in their unique talent and their freedom of expression. His philosophy is for one to “dream, work hard, and believe.” He hopes that his art “brightens the faces of mankind and drives away the sorrow and pain, creating a nursing ground for hope.” He is a believer, respects humanity, and believes we are all one in spirit. When not creating art, Ngwa enjoys reading. The pictures below are of paintings that Ngwa completed last year.
Shakiba, 29 ♦ Aghanistan
Shakiba is a self-taught artist, and the work she displays at our exhibitions is the first of hers that she has shown to anyone other than her immediate family. Though her parents repeatedly told her that art was “nonsense” and “useless,” her husband supported it as a hobby and has encouraged his wife to pursue her dream of becoming an artist, despite the fact that this kind of independence for women can be frown upon in their culture. Now, through the sale of her art, Shakiba is the sole provider for her family.
Shakiba fled her home in Afghanistan in a region controlled by the Taliban with her husband, while pregnant with her now two-year-old son, through Iran and Turkey, on to Greece. They arrived in Lesvos and have since lived in a number of camps, including in Moria, Elliniko, and Thiva. The family has now been granted three-year subsidiary protection in Greece.
Shakiba’s art is emotional, raw, and conveys her experience as a refugee fleeing violence and danger in her country. Shakiba uses pencil, brush, and cuttlebone to create her stunning pieces. She is touched and honored to receive such validation as an artist, a dream she never imagined would come to fruition. The pieces below comprise some of Shakiba’s work from last year. you can view her new art at upcoming shows; see the upcoming events page for details.
Iman, 45 ♦ Syria
Until recently, Iman was living at the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece. She, her three children, and her husband arrived in Greece in 2016. In late December of 2017, they were finally permitted to leave Greece and reunify with their teen-age son who had made it to Germany before the EU borders were closed in March 2016. Seeing her son again, after two years, was one of the most unforgettable and emotional moments of her life.
Iman attended art school in Aleppo, Syria, at the age of 16. Her parents were supportive of her interest in art and her desire to study the subject in school. Iman was grateful for the opportunity to study the subject of her choosing, a subject that she loves so much. She has been painting non-stop since her teenage years. Her favorite artists are Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Iman says that painting brings her “mental calm and happiness in the midst of chaos.” She determines what to paint based on her mood in that moment. When she sees the creation of the color on canvas, she feels empowered. In her words, “The colors take on soul and meaning.”
Her youngest child shares her interest in art, and she spends time teaching him art techniques. She hopes that her children will have a good future, achieve success, and forget about the difficult days they have endured.
Proceeds from Iman’s art sales help to support the family as they establish themselves in a new country. In fact, income from her art sales were essential in enabling the family to purchase flight tickets to leave Greece and reunify with their son. These are some of Iman’s previous works. You can see her new work at an upcoming show near you.
Ahmed, 50 ♦ Syria
Ahmed is from Al Raqaa, Syria. He escaped the war in Syria two years ago and has been living in Greece since then with his twenty year old son. His wife, younger daughter, and younger son were not able to get out of Syria. Ahmed spent just over a year on the island of Lesvos, but was moved to Athens when he began experiencing medical complications.
In Syria, Ahmed practiced both civil and criminal law. He developed an interest in painting while living in Syria, and studied art at the Art Institute in Al Raqaa for two years. Ahmed pursued art as a hobby, to express himself. His favorite artists are Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
He often offered his artwork to friends and family as a gift, but had never sold his pieces until he joined Love Without Borders. Now, he sells his art to support himself financially while awaiting approval of his asylum application in Greece. Ahmed shared that it is difficult to depend on others for survival. “In Syria, I used to work and support all people around me,” he told us. Not being able to do so since he left his home country is very challenging for him.
When Ahmed paints he feels like he is able to express himself clearly and loudly. His paintings often convey the images of his country’s history and civilization. The subjects of his paintings come from both his imagination and from his experiences in life. He takes pride in sharing these images with the world.
Three words that Ahmed uses to describe himself include: “ambitious, optimistic, and dreamy.” The proceeds from Ahmed’s sales provide support for Ahmed and his family. His two pieces below are available for purchase, and will be on display at our upcoming show in Belgium.
Yohannes, 40 ♦ Eritrea
Yohannes and his wife fled Eritrea nearly two years ago. They arrived by rubber boat to the island of Lesvos, where they were prohibited from leaving for 15 months. While on Lesvos they first lived outside, in a tent, at Moria camp, a camp that has been described by the press as “inhumane” and “lacking in basic human dignity.” From Moira camp, they were transferred to Pikpa Solidarity camp, living under more tolerable conditions. Yohannes and his wife were recently allowed to leave the island and move to Athens while they await their asylum interview.
Yohannes is a self-taught artist. He has been interested in art since childhood but was not permitted to pursue his creative side in his home country. Yohannes’ art depicts images of beautiful and strong African women and children. Yohannes is also a talented jewelry maker, and he makes earrings that he sells through our program.
Yohannes has additional creative endeavors aside from making beautiful art—he plays the guitar and sings songs popular in his country. Yohannes enjoys cooking, and can make a tasty chapatti, among other traditional dishes. He loves to read history books and fiction novels. One of his favorite novels is Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon.
Yohannes is passionate about his art and is honored that his art is receiving worldwide attention. Proceeds from his art go to pay for his family’s living expenses. Below are some of Yohannes’ work; his depiction of the acropolis in Athens was made in solidarity with Greeks who were affected by the fires, and is available for purchase.
Jameel, 18 ♦ Afghanistan
Jameel arrived in Greece with his younger brother eighteen months ago, when he was only just sixteen. They lived in a refugee camp until recently when they were placed in a home for unaccompanied minors. Before arriving in Greece, Jameel did not know many things about the culture and lifestyle of the country, but he is learning quickly. He is impressed by the kindness of the Greek people and the richness of the country’s history. Jameel says the hardest part about his life in Greece is being separated from the rest of his family.
Jameel’s hobbies back home included reading books, poetry, collecting historical coins, collecting gems and stones, and spending time with animals. His favorite animals to spend time with are dogs and pigeons.
Jameel sketched his first drawing only eight months ago when he decided to participate in Love Without Borders, never before realizing his potential as an artist. A social worker in the camp he lived in saw his work, and helped him to secure a full scholarship at an art school in Greece, where he is now learning to work with charcoal and acrylics under the tutelage of his mentor. The inspiration for Jameel’s art comes from feelings, memories, and from his desire to share those feelings and memories with others. Jameel uses strong and vibrant colors in his paintings because he “likes the brightness of the world.”
Jameel describes himself as “friendly” and “caring.” He likes to help others–family, friends, and strangers. Jameel’s dream is to become a great artist, a good businessman, and to live in Canada. He and his brother have been granted five years’ asylum in Greece. The income from his paintings will be used to pay for his living expenses as he will likely be made to leave the home for minors very soon.
Othman, 41 ♦ Syria
Othman and his family fled their home in Damascus, Syria, over two years ago. He, his wife, and their three children lived in two different camps in Greece, until recently. His two sons crossed the border into Switzerland to apply for asylum. They also applied for reunification with their parents and sibling, and Othman and his family are now living together again in Switzerland.
In Syria, Othman was an accomplished artist, but he left all his supplies and artwork behind when he and his family escaped the war. The Love Without Borders art program provided him with art supplies through its program at Nea Kavala camp, and his ability to return to his passion has helped to sustain him emotionally and financially during the very difficult times in Greece. Othman was affectionately referred to as “Picasso” by other residents of the camp, to whom he often gave art lessons and emotional support.
Othman uses his artistic talents to express his frustration, as well as escape from the stress, caused by his estrangement from his home in Syria. His work includes reference to the refugee crisis, human nature and nature itself. Art is the way he tells others the story about the pain his family and land have endured.
Othman is dedicated to the well-being of his family. He wishes for his children to live safe from the terrors and tragedies of war, where they can obtain a good education and pursue the careers of their dreams. Othman and his wife recently welcomed their sixth child into the world. He supports his family through the sale of his art, which you can see on display, available for purchase, at an upcoming exhibition near you.