An Aspiring Architect Paints from Baghdad to Philly – Through Courageous Eyes | LIRS
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An Aspiring Architect Paints from Baghdad to Philly – Through Courageous Eyes

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Today’s guest post is by Mayyadah Alhumssi, an Iraqi painter now of Philadelphia, whose work includes scenes from both Baghdad and Philly. She works with the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative.


Mayyadah writes:

“Baghdad.” When someone mentions this word, what comes to my mind is the city of One Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights) over the Tigris river with its features: the arches, the domes, and the palm trees.

My name is Mayyadah and I’m an aspiring architect. I moved to Syria with my family in 2006, and then we came to the United States in November 2012. I love designing, decorating, painting, and I usually draw when there is a concept in my mind urging me to come out. Sometimes you find hidden words in my paintings; I like people to focus deep in my paintings and discover the mystery inside them. I also like to draw cultural environmental aspects of different communities.

I design some of my clothes and paint on other ones to make them unique. I even design jewelry and, in 2005, I participated in the World Gold Council competition with ten designs. In addition, I use computer programs such as Autocad, 3D Max, and Photoshop, to enhance my ideas.

Turkish Dervishes Sufi Dance
“Turkish Dervishes Sufi Dance”

I have a painful memory of when I was painting this; there were clashes in the streets where I used to live in Syria. The Sufi dance carries spiritual meanings which have specific rules; every gesture indicates a certain meaning. I believe I convey these meanings through the colors I used, and you can feel the flowing movement… I love this painting!


In this painting, I imagine the human faces like houses of a city. In the middle is the sun, which is the reality in our lives, while the birds are the travelers whose mission is to report the news (in our culture).

Every single person has his own reaction towards this news; one reacts in silent way and doesn’t care about anything (the biggest grey face); another is double-faced; the yellow one is the hypocrite, always pretending; the clown is the one who doesn’t understand anything and is always smiling like a silly person; another is spying behind screens; the red one is shouting but there are no listening ears.

So on, the pattern is repeated from the biggest people ending with the small people. Also women’s faces are expressed by their eyes; there is a miserable woman who is tear-eyed, a covered woman who cannot talk or discuss, and a young woman whose attention is directed solely to makeup and beauty. Eventually, the faces positioned beneath the ground are the ones who are suppressed and are not allowed to talk. The steps refer to the classes of people.

Click on thumbnails for a larger view of Mayyadah’s paintings.

Find all the previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.

Through Courageous Eyes features the artistic work of refugees and migrants. If you would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at

Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser

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